As summer vacation ends and a long list of back-to-school tasks looms, many parents can find themselves becoming stressed.
“Filling out forms, buying supplies and clothes, meeting new teachers, and figuring out after-school child care are just some of the things that have to be done before the kids go back, and that’s a lot to manage,” says Dr. Abby Smolcich, a pediatrician at ThedaCare Physicians-Darboy. “Making a list, planning ahead, sharing the tasks between parents, or seeking help from friends can help reduce the load and the stress.”
While two-parent families can more easily share responsibilities, single parents might find themselves struggling. Dr. Smolcich recommends they seek the help of a support circle. For example, a friend, grandparent or other relative could care for kids while the parent does school shopping.
For all parents, spreading out a long list of tasks over an extended time period can help make it less daunting. “Try not to leave everything for the last week or two,” says Dr. Smolcich, who’s a mother of two. “Spending 20 to 30 minutes a day accomplishing one or two tasks can be really helpful to keep things manageable.”
When parents get stressed, it can affect the whole family and worsen tensions. Scheduling time for self-care can help combat burnout.
“It can be difficult as parents to give ourselves the grace to take care of ourselves when we’re feeling stressed,” Dr. Smolcich says. “It’s important for moms and dads to know that it is OK to take time for themselves. Whatever will help calm you and ease your stress is what you should do. Maybe it’s a walk or bike ride by yourself, a relaxing bath, a massage, or going fishing for a couple of hours —whatever will allow you to step aside and give yourself the space you need.”
Another way to reduce back-to-school stress is to make sure everyone is getting good rest. Dr. Smolcich recommends that families begin following school bed and wake-up times a week or so before school starts.
“Over the summer, we tend to relax some rules, and bedtime is frequently one of them,” she says. “Having everyone get back into school bedtime/wakeup routines ahead of time will definitely make those first days of school less stressful.”
Above all, remember that all parents experience some back-to-school stress, and you’re not alone.
“Sometimes it’s just the reality of our kids growing up and moving into new phases that can hit us a little suddenly,” Dr. Smolcich says. “Whatever the stress is, doing the best you can is all we can really expect from ourselves. Nobody is perfect. Take one day at a time and enjoy the new experiences you and your child will be having.”