Many kids (and parents) are feeling mounting anxiety over the approach of a new school year. From hectic mornings to last-minute projects, the many activities that make up the busy schedules of the school year can be tough on both parents and students, causing at times intense stress and anxiety. If you're in college or starting college as a freshman, you'll need to learn how to adjust on your own. Here are five ways you can lessen stress, both as a family and on your own as you enter the stages of young adulthood:
Start Early to Prevent Sleep Loss or Insomnia
Over the summer, most families take their cues from the sun and stay up later. While it may be tempting to keep the late-night fun going up until the end, starting your school routine a few weeks early can help ease the transition back to school. Two to three weeks before the advent of school, begin going to bed and getting up earlier and try to eat on a more regular schedule as well. This advice isn't just for little kids; teens and adults need quality sleep for proper functioning as well and getting your schedule straight now will help prevent insomnia or sleep deprivation when school starts. Good rest can help your child better manage stress on the first day.
Get to School Early
While we're on the topic of starting early, it's a good idea to visit or arrive on campus a week or so before the first day. Note to parents: for kids who are going to be first-timers for kindergarten, first grade, middle school or even high school, this can help them feel more comfortable with the new place and get a better idea of where to go once they're there. Even for returning students, it doesn't hurt to know where the classroom is, say hello to whatever staff is there getting ready and start getting excited about going back.
For college students, this will help students feel a whole lot more comfortable before the start of school, and help ease back to school jitters. Get to school a week and change before orientation or the start of classes to feel more confident about going back to school. You'll be surprised at how much better and more settled in it'll make you feel to just get to campus a few days before everyone else does.
If you're a parent with young children, it's a good idea to ensure that there's at least one friend in the class or classes your child will be attending. If classes are assigned without your input, talk to other parents and try to find out who your child will be sharing a class with ahead of time, and let them know. Knowing who is in their class will give them something else to look forward to, and remind them of what they enjoy about school. If your child is entering kindergarten or first grade, it might be a good idea to have a playdate with one of the children who will be in their class a week before school starts to help them feel more comfortable and get more excited about seeing their friends again in school. If you're new to the area or don't know anyone, try checking out the school's social media pages to find other parents and kids.
If you're a freshman just starting out at college, reach out to the couple of people that you've met before getting to campus. Ask around and see if they're interested in the same subjects as you, and see if they're taking any of the introductory classes you are because they're bound to be in at least one similar freshman intro-class as you.
If you're a returning college student, you've been through this process at least once before, and you basically know the drill. Even though you're familiar with the process, though, there's always some anxiety revolving around classes and not knowing exactly who's in them. In short: ask around. You know who's pursuing what at this point, and I can promise you that you'll know at least one person in your classes, or if not in your exact class, then in another section with the same professor. You'll be just fine! You're a pro already, after all.
For parents, back to school shopping is something essential for your child or children to be eased back into school. Back to school shopping may help your child get excited about the new school year. If your child really couldn't care less about shopping, you can make it quick and painless, but for kids who relish the annual decisions of which clothes, backpacks, and other supplies to choose, it can be an easy way to ease your child into the new year.
Along these lines, have fun preparing your child's study area. It's important to that your child has a comfortable, quiet place to study. You may also want to get your routines ready; as you get back onto an earlier schedule, have your kids start laying out their clothes the night before, keeping their shoes by the door and get back into other morning habits that help you get out the door with less hassle. This can help refine your routine and make the back to school transition easier.
For college kids, get your stuff BEFORE classes. Seriously. Barnes and Noble can only supply so much to you when every single student waits until the first or second day of classes to get all of the standards back to school notebooks and pencils.
Talk to One Another
Parents: one of the best ways to relieve back to school anxiety and prepare for the coming year is to simply talk to your child about what he or she may be feeling. When the subject of school comes up, let your child tell you what's exciting about school as well as what may be a little anxiety-provoking. If your child expresses some negativity about school, don't discount immediately his or her concerns; instead, focus on validating feelings. Then you can help find solutions or shift the focus to a more positive one like seeing friends, covering exciting new material and growing up. This can be an excellent time to discuss important topics like how to handle bullies, peer pressure, and other important topics. Creating open lines of communication lets your child know that you'll be available for support.
The main thing to remember in dealing with back to school jitters is to be prepared mentally and logistically. Know what to expect and be prepared, and have a plan to keep things manageable. Then follow that plan. If you show your enthusiasm for what the new school year brings, your kids are sure to pick up on it and the nervous energy will turn into excitement.
College pros: talk to yourself. You know the process already, and if you're a freshman, I can promise you, you'll have the whole college thing down in a week or less. Trust me when I say, you'll figure it out, and there's always someone at your school exactly like you. It's just a matter of time until you find your person. To all those froshes out there: good luck. To all upperclassmen: good luck, but I'm not worried about ya. To all my fellow seniors: Let's do this one last time, and do it right.