Whether the start of a new school year is right around the corner or already in full swing, for some parents it’s an increased feeling of anxiety.
If you’re a mom who’s experiencing a little extra stress at the beginning of a new school year, you’re not alone. In fact, your feeling is more common than you may think, especially if your kids are younger.
A new survey from Kiddie Academy, an educational child care center, found that when all members of the family are polled, 63 percent say it’s Mom who has the hardest time with the first day of school.
That’s compared to only 27 percent who identified the child as being the one who struggles most.
“It’s normal for parents to have a tough time transitioning themselves when their kids begin kindergarten,” according to Michele Levin, a family therapist and co-owner of Blueprint Mental Health. “For a lot of families, this is the first time experiencing losing some control.”
She points out there are a number of ways parents can manage the stress that can come with the start of a new school year.
Practice makes perfect
American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) spokesperson Dr. Sara Bode, who’s also a primary care pediatrician and medical director of Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s Care Connection School-Based Health and Mobile Services, suggests that moms who may be stressed during the first days of school spend some time thinking about what the root cause of their anxiety is and what they can do to soothe it.
Preparing for the beginning of school is like training for an event. And practice makes perfect. This extends to forming new routines in the days leading up to the beginning of the school year, too.
Tasks like getting your kids to wake up earlier, pick out the clothes they want to wear for the day, or eating breakfast at certain times can all help ease the transition when the first day of school arrives.
For many parents, a big part of their stress stems from worrying about the experience their children will have when they begin school and the anxiety they may feel in an unfamiliar place.
But Levin says it’s important for parents to remember they can’t control that experience for their kids.
“You can only control how you respond to it,” she said.
Levin says she wants parents to remember it’s not up to them to take away any potential stressors from their children, or to prevent them from experiencing discomfort.
Instead, she says parents should be focused on helping their kids understand how they feel, talk it through, and learn how to cope with whatever’s going on.
Helping kids cope
Kids often feel anxiety, too, and parents can play an integral role in helping them cope.
“Anything you can do to minimize the mystery of it all ahead of time is going to help your kids. If you can preplan to have a visit to the school, talking about everything they should expect, and even practicing what the first day of school might look like, that can help,” Bode said.
She explains this is because kids thrive on routine and like expectations.
However, for kids who may experience more than just the normal nerves for the first day of school, Levin says many schools have amazing resources available to help.
“Reach out to the school for some support, and they can point you in the right direction, whether it’s tools to implement or referrals to a therapist for additional help,” she said.
Tackling that first day like a champ
When the first day does finally roll around, it’s not uncommon for younger kids to cling and struggle a little.
For parents who are already anxious about how their child may handle this transition, they may be tempted to prolong their goodbye. However, both experts Healthline spoke with encourage parents to stick to their planned routine and not linger.
Rather than linger, Bode suggests parents assure their child that everything is going to be OK and that they’re going to have a great day. Then leave them with their teacher, who’s likely well versed in helping kids adjust.
“It’s perfectly OK to drop your child off, smile enthusiastically the whole time, and then go around the corner and cry a little. You just want to try to minimize that sort of reaction in front of your child,” Levin said.
Remind them of the plan, tell them you love them, and trust their teacher to handle the next part.
While that may not seem easy, it’s ultimately what’s best for your little one and you.
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