It’s that time again! Parents everywhere are scrambling to complete those unfilled check boxes on their summer bucket list, kids are soaking up every last minute of sleeping in, and the credit cards are getting a few more swipes as we all stock up on back-to-school items.
And while this time of year often brings on all the feels—the anticipation of something new but the reminder that it really all does go by in the blink of an eye, back to school this year might be met with even more stress and anxiety than before. After all, the last school year was anything but “picturesque.”
It’s not unusual for parents and kids to both be feeling some trepidation about what school will look like this year. The unknown is never fun. You’re not alone. It’s as if the world decided that parents didn’t have enough to worry about with their kids, so let’s throw in a pandemic too, shall we?
But if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last year it’s that I can only control the things I can control.
Meaning, there are so many things that are out of my hands. So instead of spending my precious time worrying about those things, I will find solutions and put plans in place for the things that I can control. Try it. I promise you, this mindset shift is life-changing.
Top Ways to Mitigate Back-to-School Anxiety
Many times, back-to-school anxiety is about the kids, but with all the unknown, anxiety can be a family affair. So, if you’re a parent who is struggling with the idea of your kids going back to school—mid-pandemic or just in general, here are some tips I’m reminding myself to focus on. Because honestly, guys, going into the school year with an open mindset is honestly the way to go any year.
Be Mindful + Present
Change can be exciting, but it can also be scary. When you’re entering into something without knowing what your situation will look like a few months from now, it can add some additional anxiety to an already stressful situation. This is a great time to practice being mindful, not only of your kiddos’ needs and feelings, but yours as well. As parents, it can be easy to carry the weight of our little ones’ worries, but if we’re not careful, we can often find ourselves bogged down by their troubles.
When we can be mindful in our parenting (as well as in any situation life throws at us), we can stop letting our emotions in the moment guide our decisions. Here are some ways to engage in being mindful:
- Put away your phone or any technology that takes you out of your current space.
- Breathe deeply starting with a 4:5:6 breathe (inhale for 4, hold your breath for 5, and exhale for 6). This will shift your focus from the past and future, keeping you right in the present moment. Practice just a few times a day to calm your nerves.
- Stop multitasking (this relates to those phones and that dang technology).
- If your mind wanders, focus on one thing that you’re thankful for right now. Doing so will shift your mind back into the present.
Most importantly, don’t punish yourself for having a wandering mind. Even the most mindful people struggle depending on the day. It just takes practice. The key to being present is that it will allow you to ease thoughts of the unknown and give you space to determine the best solution vs. rushing into a decision or reacting impulsively.
Moving your body is good for the soul. Not only does it keep you physically healthy, but exercise is also a great way to release endorphins and ease stress. Even though the next few weeks will be busy and crazy, make sure you still keep exercise as part of your daily routine. If going to the gym feels like a luxury you just don’t have time for, pick a quick at-home workout, go for a walk, or even make yoga a part of your mindful morning routine.
Set a Routine
You know I’m big on routines. Routines are essential. They give us a sense of familiarity and control, and they help us stay committed to our goals and obligations. For kids, routines can help them feel safe, so establish a daily routine for both you and your family. Set the expectations early, and even if your kids give a little push-back, trust me: They will be thankful for this routine once they’re in the full blown swing of the new school year.
Celebrate Small Victories
Make time to celebrate, always. There is no victory too big or too small that is unworthy of recognition and a little celebration.
- Dropped the kids off at school on time? Celebrate it.
- Homework completed without any arguments? Celebrate it.
- Made time to exercise even though you had a busy day? Celebrate it.
- Magically found some time for yourself? Celebrate it.
Positive reinforcement does wonders for our motivation as well as our mindset. When we can celebrate all the wins along the way, it will help us stay excited about our situation and open up new ideas for goals that we can continue to work toward.
We are all still navigating new waters, and I don’t expect a calm sea for quite a while still. But it’s up to us as parents to make things as positive as we can, and not just for our kiddos, but for protecting our own peace as well. Focus on the positives with this new school year and look for moments to celebrate and situations to be excited about. And above all, promote a safe environment where every single member of your family feels comfortable talking openly about how they’re feeling, including you. One thing is certain: We’ll all get through this school year together!
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