Summer is over and children are back in school. For parents, that means tackling reading lists, homework, carpools and food preparation while still maintaining a healthy personal and professional life balance. While we often associate back-to-school stress with students and their mountains of homework, this time of year can also be very stressful for any parent. Coping with stress head-on is important to maintain personal happiness and positive relationships.
Don’t just get a grip on your stress for yourself – do it for your children. Even parents who think they keep their stress to themselves can have a negative effect on their child. In a recent study by the American Psychological Association, 69 percent of parents said their stress only had a slight impact on their children, yet only 14 percent of children surveyed said their parents stress did not bother them. Being self-aware of your stress level is the first step to alleviating it and maintaining a good relationship with your family.
Improper time management can be a major trigger for parental stress. Helping your children prepare for the day is time consuming, and without the right time management practices, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the endless task list needed to get your child to and from school, keep him or her well-fed and make sure he or she makes it to every extracurricular activity on time. Schedules can help you visualize your time and prepare to manage it in a non-stressful way. Creating a schedule is a simple but effective way to organize your day and relieve some of the stress of racing against the clock.
These time management skills should be especially useful now because the back-to-school season brings a host of time-consuming responsibilities. To prepare, talk to your kids early and figure out what kind of material items they’re going to need for the rest of the fall and maybe even in the winter. Beating the crowds to the stores – especially before the Thanksgiving and holiday season rushes – will relieve some of the stress in the next few months.
Most importantly, retain your work-life balance. Let’s not forget that ‘work’ can include the responsibilities that come with being a parent. Talk to your partner and ensure your responsibility load is shared. In a recent 2015 Care.com survey, 48 percent of parents surveyed felt there was an imbalance of responsibility-sharing at home. This could include alternating who gets to manage homework help days, carpooling, and play dates, all of which would offer a huge relief to everyone’s schedule and allow for some personal time. Helping out your partner can have a positive impact on your child and your relationship.
As a wellness director at the St. Joseph Health system, I highly recommend finding a consistent way to get some “me-time.” Adjusting your sleeping schedule to give yourself extra time in the morning can give you a moment of relaxation and clarity for the busy day ahead. Your attitude and mood reflect on your children, so projecting relaxation gives children a positive foundation for the day.
Remember – taking the time and effort to deal with your own stress is not selfish. Coping with parental stress is important for the overall well-being of the family. The new school year can be a stressful time for everyone, and developing positive coping mechanisms will help the whole family make this year a breeze.