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By : Margaret Hansen, 08-06-2015
Back to school season is a time of mixed emotions for both parents and kids. Parents may look forward to more time to themselves, but that comes at the cost of the leisurely summer hours spent making memories with their kids. Kids may look forward to a new year and to seeing their friends again, but will also dread the loss of freedom that the school year brings. There are many things parents can do to make this time of year easier on their children, and consequently, less stressful for themselves. Parents can ease their kids back into school by planning ahead, and by managing their own stress and expectations.

A change to routine can be anxiety inducing for kids. Parents can respond to this by understanding it will be stressful for their children and planning accordingly. There are many things that can be done prior to the school season starting to help gradually accustom your child to the idea of going back to school. Start by discussing the positive aspects of going back to school a few weeks before school begins. Remember the the good times from past school years can help frame school in a positive light for your child and can help them look forward to the experience instead of dreading it.

Parents can also helps their children prepare for school ahead of time by adjusting schedules prior to the beginning of the school year. Typically in summer, kids tend to wake up later in the day and go to bed later at night than is possible during the school year. 
Again, this should be started a few weeks before school resumes. Start sending your kids to bed a few minutes earlier, and waking them up earlier each day, until they are back on their school's schedule. By doing this gradually, the shift will be less of a shock to them when they go back to school.

For younger kids, it can also be helpful to visit the classroom before school starts. This can particularly ease the experience for kids who are just starting school and may not know what to expect, but is also helpful for kids who have moved recently, and are anxious about starting a new school. This will give your kids the opportunity to adjust to their new surrounding prior to the chaos of the first day of school. Contact your school ahead of time, so you can ensure your child's teacher will be there to introduce themselves.

Another way to help your kids adjust to going back to school is to be mindful of your own stress and expectations. Parents may feel stress related to their children returning to school for a variety of reasons. It may be feelings of sadness tied to the loss of precious time with children, or anxiety when recalling a child's past struggles with classroom performance. When children sense their parents are stressed, it can increase their own anxiety. Parents can manage this by having an attitude of mindfulness regarding their concerns for the upcoming year. Be aware of your stress and acknowledge it, and it will be easier to control.

The back to school season is a time of change and transition, and with change comes anxiety. However, parents can moderate the stress of the transition by preparing their children before school starts, and by addressing their own concerns in a productive way. It also helpful to keep in mind the old adage "this too shall pass" when dealing with stress over transitions. Before long, your kids will be caught up in school and friends, and time in the classroom will be routine once more.
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