Prevention Plus: Stress less when school starts

With summer quickly fading and school on the horizon, many kids and families begin to experience stress and anxiety. Here are some tips to make the transition easier, for children, teens and parents.

  1. Have a “growth” mindset.  By its very nature, “newness” brings change and, therefore, stress. For parents, there are new schedules, activities, and expenses to manage. For kids, the prospect of new teachers, classes and classmates can be overwhelming. BUT, stress can be both positive and negative. With your kids, emphasize the positive, such as the excitement of making new friends, learning a new language, mastering a soccer kick or piano piece.
  2. Do a walk-through. Before school begins, walk through your children’s schools and schedules, especially important if your child is going to a new school. Walk the path from the bus to their classroom, tour the playground and lunchroom. Ninth-graders will find it helpful to visit RHS and walk their schedules, finding their lockers, the gym, student center and library. Parents will benefit from mentally visualizing each day of the week and working out how various activities and time demands will impact each other.
  3. Get your family on “school time” before school time. Bedtimes often drift in summertime, creating stress and exhaustion when school starts. In mid-August, slowly move your family back onto “school time” so that your kids are getting the rest they need, when they need it, by the time school opens. When school starts, be unyielding about bedtimes! If your child wakes without an alarm clock and gets ready easily for the day, they are getting enough sleep.
  4.  Keep a sane schedule. Very few kids enjoy or thrive when they are over-scheduled. To avoid burnout and stress, limit the number of activities and keep a sane schedule. Kids benefit when they have sufficient time to complete homework at a comfortable pace, relax, spend time with family and enjoy a hobby or two.
  5. Organize work spaces, supplies and rules. Before school begins, organize spaces where homework, projects and quiet studying gets done. Establish common-sense rules, such as no social media while doing homework, homework before television/video games, and “power-down” 45-minutes before bedtime so that your kids can have sufficient time to “de-stress” each day.
  6. Be a role model. Your kids are watching you every minute of the day. They learn to manage stress by watching what you do, not what you say. Model healthy behavior with food, drink, social media, work and exercise. Better yet, find time, every day, to truly relax — try reading, praying, meditating, running, a warm bath, yoga or deep breathing. If you model relaxation and healthy stress management, your kids will develop good habits, too.
Carol Mahlstedt, MSW, Psy.D. is a clinical psychologist with a private practice in Ridgefield and a member of RCCASA (Ridgefield Community Coalition Against Substance Abuse).