This was an unpleasant revelation I had just before my son entered Pre-K: August is now when I get to relive all of the back-to-school anxiety I had as a kid, compounded by already prevalent mom anxiety. Wow, that’s fun! And, according to a new survey, this worried feeling is something that most parents feel at summer’s end.
A survey by OnePoll, reported in the New York Post, found that 60% of parents are so stressed about back-to-school season they lose sleep. Of the 2,000 parents of kids ages 5-18, 57% said it is the most stressful time of the year for them.
The top worries of most parents are: Whether their child will have good teachers (50%), whether their child eats healthy foods at school (44%), the cost of buying school supplies (42%), their child’s safety at school (40%), and whether their child will make friends at school (40%).
Before worry, and worrying about the worry, gets you down, here are a few ways to combat each of the above back-to-school concerns before the season hits:
1. Wait and see about those teachers.
At most schools, you can’t do a whole lot about which teachers your kid gets. But the good news is that whatever rumors you may hear from other parents about which teachers are too strict and which ones don’t care about education, that may not necessarily be the case with your child.
Some kids really bond with teachers that other kids don’t like. Give the teachers the benefit of the doubt at first, and then ask your child specific questions about their day. Even with “bad” teachers, you have the opportunity to help your kid learn how to deal with different personalities. If things are really not working a few weeks into the school year, you can escalate matters with parent-teacher meetings and the school’s administration. There’s no sense stressing about this one before a problem arises, though.
2. Talk about good nutrition together, and make sure they eat well at home.
If you’re not packing a lunch for your kid every day—and even if you are—you’re going to have to trust them about what they eat. Make sure they understand why certain foods are better than others, and try to make sure they get the stuff they really need at breakfast and dinner.
3. Do your back-to-school shopping gradually.
You know the basics of what your child will need before the teachers hand out those lists—pencils, pens, notebooks, backpacks—so you can pick them up bit by bit throughout the summer when there are good sales (check if your state has a sales-tax-free holiday!). You can also turn back-to-school shopping into a fun ritual you have as a family to get excited for the school year by selecting just a couple of items you’ll buy together—a character lunchbox, a first-day-of school shirt, new hair accessories. Then save the rest for buying online, at thrift stores, or even after the school year starts when discounts might be even bigger.
4. Learn about the school’s safety and emergency procedures.
There is a lot you can’t control in this area, but you can be informed. The National Association of Elementary School Principals recommended to Scholastic.com that parents review alternate travel routes to and from school, familiarize themselves with security measures, and talk to kids about what to do when they don’t feel safe (including telling a teacher and knowing how to reach you at home).
5. Model good social skills, but don’t force them.
Let those little sponges see how you talk to friends and neighbors, because they’ll mirror you eventually. Enrolling them in after-school and weekend activities may also help them gain confidence when meeting new people, but only if they enjoy what they’re doing. Also, remember that your kid might have different social needs than you do, so don’t stress if they seem happier with one close friend than with a big group (or the other way around).
Now, if anyone can help me stop having those dreams where I show up late to my high school in my underwear having not studied for a chemistry test, please let me know.