May 18, 2024
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Back-to-School Tips for Parents and Caregivers

Many children and parents have been looking forward to heading back to school after a long summer, despite the additional anxiety and stress due to the pandemic. For many parents, balancing childcare, work, school and family needs is overwhelming and often seems impossible.

As adults, we know how bad stress is for our well-being. We need to show children how to work through stressful situations. One way to accomplish this is to talk about stress: identify what it is and how it affects our bodies. It is important to remember that some of the stress we feel as parents can transfer to our children. By casually talking, you not only will become aware of how your child feels but it may actually help ease much of the stress simply by not keeping it all bottled up inside. Once you know your child’s specific stressors, you can then give them tools to work through it.

Children pick up on our stress. If you are stressed out, it can make your kids stressed out, and when everyone is stressed, it is a recipe for disaster. Work on positive thinking. Take deep breaths and calm your body and mind. Deep breathing is one of the simplest and best ways to lower stress in our bodies. This goes for both parents and kids.

Keep your eye out for warning signs that your child is having difficulties. These can include a loss of appetite, secrecy or lack of communication, isolation, emotional outbursts and much more. If you have concerns, talk to your child, teachers or principals, and even your doctor to help manage the issue and create a support framework.

Though it may be difficult, setting screen time limits and expectations is important. Studies continue to show that electronics before sleep can lead to disrupted sleep and fatigue the next day.

Switching from summer hours to early bedtimes and wake ups is often the toughest part of the back-to-school routine. It is important to remember that a good night’s sleep is one of the fundamentals to staying healthy and keeping stress levels down during the transition and throughout the year.

Some children may not express their feelings about being back in school. Ask if they have anything they are excited about in the coming year. Parents can also open a dialogue that allows children to express concerns or worries. Having this conversation early on will give you a chance to dispel any myths and develop a plan to manage stress and anxiety.

Anxiety is a growing concern for school-age children, whether it is separation anxiety, social anxiety, fear of not fitting in or even feeling the pressure to stay on top of grades and activities. You can help children cope with back-to-school anxiety by talking about the return to school with them and discussing any changes from their former routine. As a family, identify what keeps you safe and things you have control over, such as wearing a mask, washing your hands, eating healthy and keeping socially distant. Identify the things out of your control and make an effort to let them go.

Remember, you are not in this alone and you can and should reach out for additional support if needed. Jewish Family Service of MetroWest NJ offers a variety of services for children and their families, and also offers support to schools and professionals that may be looking for help coping with the current situation. For more information, please visit www.jfsmetrowest.org  or call (973) 765-9050.


Marianne McCrone, MS, NCC, LPC, is the program coordinator, child & adolescent services, Jewish Family Service of MetroWest NJ.

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