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Tips for parents on managing back-to-school stress and anxiety

21 January 2021 Blog
Community services Perinatal mental health
Heading to school, particularly for the first time, can be exciting, but also stress-inducing for both children and their parents / carers.

Often both share the same concerns - the children worried about a new environment and making friends; the adults concerned about the child settling in to a new setting with a new peer group.

St John of God Raphael Services Victoria Manager Danny Stone shares his practical tips on how parents can ease the mounting anxiety during the lead up to a new school term.

Family routine 

One key to getting your child to school in a good mood is a good routine. Children thrive on clear routines, which helps everyone to be organised. Routines can also help share the load for parents /carers and empowers children by giving them an appropriate level of independence.

To develop a good routine, understanding your family’s strengths is essential. For example, if your child isn’t a morning person and takes a long time to wake up, a routine that starts the night before can be really useful. This could mean organising lunches, school bags and their school uniform the night before, which takes the pressure off in the morning.

Different children within one family may have different routines - one might pack their school bag at night and the others in the morning. Try to consider what can make the morning less stressful for the individual child, as well as for the family.

Communication 

People are social beings - we want to talk about our day but it’s important that we’re able to do so in our own time. Children are little people and are no different.

Understanding your child’s communication style is essential to reducing stress for them and for you as their parent / carer. For example, some children may want to tell you immediately what has happened during their day, minute-by-minute, while others need time to relax and reenergise before they’re ready to go into detail.

Try to make sure that your child knows you’re interested in hearing about their day and if they don’t want to talk about it straight away, leave the door open for them to come back and have that chat.

No matter how old your child is, understanding who they are and being interested in what they do will help them feel supported and secure.

Make it fun 

Children are very intuitive and quickly pick up if an adult is feeling stressed or worried. Positive thinking and emphasising the fun parts of the back-to-school ritual will help ease the anxiety for everyone involved. You can do this by asking your child what they are looking forward to the most and which friends they’re excited to see.

You could also do this by shopping for your child’s school supplies list together and letting them have fun choosing their stationery. Get your children involved where you can to build the excitement for a new school year.

Need help?

Stress can impact your health in many ways, so it is important to develop positive coping mechanisms to manage the stress in your life.

If you are concerned about your mental and emotional wellbeing, St John of God Raphael Services can help by offering free counselling to enable parents to thrive emotionally, mentally and as a family. 

St John of God Health Care
Danny Stone - St John of God Raphael Services Manager Victoria West

Danny Stone is the St John of God Raphael Services Manager Victoria West. Danny has extensive experience at a senior leadership and management level and has held positions at a number of Victorian mental health services. He is also a qualified nurse and psychologist.