Back-to-school time can come with many challenges, and your kids may be dealing with stress or anxiety about returning to school. Let’s discuss ways you can help.
The transition from the end of summer to the start of a new school year can be so exciting but can also come with stress and anxiety. After all, new classes can end up being difficult, making friends can be hard, and after-school activities can leave less time for homework and rest. These stressors can be temporary or be signs that there’s something deeper going on than just back-to-school jitters. But worry not, there are things you can do to help your child, or yourself, manage stress.
What to Look Out For
One of the best things you can do to help your child is to simply pay attention to their behavior. CJ Powers (Ph.D.), Director of Psychology Training at Huntsman Mental Health Institute, says to look out for the following signs:
- Changes in typical behavior
- Withdrawing and isolating often
- More emotional than usual, crying more often
- Difficulty sleeping
- Loss of appetite or overeating
- Increased irritability or aggression
Dr. Powers says these could be signs of stress that have reached unhealthy or unmanageable levels. Stress can also manifest in physical symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, stomach aches and digestive issues, feeling hot, or having tense muscles. These symptoms could be temporary or long-term, so it’s important to talk with your child often to check in on how they’re feeling.
What You Can Do to Help
Prolonged or toxic stress can lead to trouble with learning, forming healthy relationships, trusting adults, or even lead to exhibiting unhealthy behaviors like substance abuse. Learning how to deal with stress can take some effort, but it’s worth it. The American Psychological Association recommends doing some of the following things:
- Lend a listening ear. Ask your child how they feel about going back to school and then listen to them. Offer a safe and judgement-free environment so they can be open and candid about what they’re going through.
- Spend time with them, preferably in nature. Some studies suggest that green nature helps lessen feelings of stress. Do something fun and relaxing; when you spend time with your child, it may help them feel supported and cared for.
- Eat good food, together. Sometimes you need soul food, like ice cream. But the rest of the time, make sure they’re eating nutrient-dense food so their body can feel its best. Since they’re going back to school, why not focus on helping them eat brain healthy foods that’ll help support them through homework time?
Always Have a Plan B
Stress that shows up around back to school time can be difficult to manage, but it’s not impossible. The most important thing you can do is spend time with your child, be there and pay attention to any signs of stress.
If the things mentioned above don’t help, it’s time for Plan B. Go with them to see a therapist to help them understand the root of the stress. Be prepared to help in any way you can, as your child may need extra support.
Last but not least, don’t forget about yourself. Especially if you’re the one returning to school and experiencing anxiety jitters. Make time for yourself to wind down after long or difficult tasks, get enough sleep, eat nutritious foods, and spend time with loved ones. After all, feeling healthy is not just about one thing. Look at it from a holistic perspective to help guide you into making choices that will support your health, from mind to heart to body.