To Your Health: Start new school year without all the stress
By Felicia Houston August 13, 2013 1:36PM
Updated: September 15, 2013 6:14AM
The summer is quickly drawing to an end. Before you know it, the kids will be heading back to school.
And as much as you may have wished for it, we all know what the start of a new school year means: shelling out hundreds of dollars for tuition, fees, school supplies and new clothes; memorizing class and bus schedules; enforcing bedtimes and fighting with the kids to get them up and out the door on time.
It’s no wonder this time of year is fraught with stress and anxiety for students and parents alike.
Like it or not, the start of the academic year is a time of transition for everyone in the family. But it doesn’t have to be filled with worries, too.
Ingalls Behavioral Health Services offers the following tips to help you start the school year with less stress and more confidence:
♦ Get back in a school frame of mind. First on the list is getting the kids back into a sleep routine before the first week of school. This will help ease the shock of waking up early. Organize backpacks, binders, lunch boxes and cafeteria money the night before so the first morning goes smoothly. Don’t forget to pack healthy, kid-friendly lunches to keep them energized and ready to learn throughout the day. If you’re able, take a walking tour of the school. Visit your child’s locker and classroom to help ease their fear of the unknown.
♦ Talk to your child. Whether your child is starting kindergarten, going from middle school to junior high or making the leap to high school, they may have fears they’re keeping inside. As a parent or grandparent, you’ve been through it all, so talk about what they can expect. Ask what they liked best about last year and help them see how those positive feelings can build a strong foundation for the new school year. And don’t forget to share stories about your own experiences when you were in school.
♦ Get involved. Becoming involved in your child’s school and community will help you better understand the transition he is facing.
♦ Get to know your neighbors. This is especially helpful if you’re new to the neighborhood or your child is starting a new school. Walk around and get to know the neighborhood kids and their parents. If your child is shy, help make the introductions.
♦ Be consistent. Whether your child is 6 or 16, be consistent about bedtime, homework and time for friends.
♦ Make yourself available to your kids after school. Drive time and dinner time are great opportunities to connect with your kids about their day. Instead of asking, “Did you have a good day?” try, “What was the best part of your day?” or “What did you learn in social studies today?” Specific, open-ended questions will help get the conversation flowing.
♦ Don’t over-commit. While most parents don’t intentionally set out to overcommit their kids, nonetheless they often do. Football, swimming lessons, karate and weekend soccer games are too much for a professional athlete to juggle, much less a child. Choose activities carefully. Limit them to one or two; and watch for signs of stress from your child.
♦ Take care of you. During the school year, every day seems like a juggle. While you’re scrambling to make lunches, check homework, and then get yourself to work, don’t forget to take some time for you. Take a 20-minute walk after dinner. Call a friend, relax with a good book or sip a favorite beverage.
Some back-to-school stress is to be expected. But if you or a loved one is overwhelmed with anxiety, we can help. Ingalls Behavioral Health is committed to providing quality, therapeutic behavioral health treatment for our patients and their families. The behavioral health program provides inpatient, outpatient and partial hospitalization services for adolescents, adults and older adults through a variety of programs developed to meet the individual needs of each client.
To quickly respond to your needs, a trained mental health professional is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Information is at (708) 915-6411.
Houston is a licensed clinical professional counselor with Ingalls Behavioral Health Services.