Back to School: 7 Ways Parents Can Keep Calm and Enjoy the School Year

by Bianka Hardin

Fall in Chicago brings many transitions. Kids go back to school, while parents adjust to homework and changing schedules. The Bears are back on the field, and we embrace fall without thinking about winter snows (just yet).

Change –even good change– can result in unexpected stress for parents and children. The good news there are things we can do to help us manage our feelings in a proactive manner.

Focus On Yourself!
The top complaint I hear from parents, especially moms, is that there is no time for self-care. I know, it’s hard! Here is where I want to challenge you. When we are on an airplane, the flight attendant tells us to put our air mask first before putting on our child’s. Why is that? In order for us to be good parents and make good decisions, we need to take care of ourselves first.

Self-care is not selfish, it is the best thing parents can do for themselves and their families.

Good Enough Is Good Enough
Remember, change is not easy, no one is perfect, and everyone makes mistakes. Be kind to yourself and get comfortable with being “good enough.” Our (very) high expectations in self and others can sometimes create negative feelings.

Think about it this way: If today was your last day on earth, would you really care as much about that a dish was left in the sink?

Make Whole Family Self-Care A Priority 
Make sure everyone is getting enough sleep, healthy foods, and fun together. More than you know, this will help reduce stress levels and increase connectedness within your family. The more we feel connected, the better we feel!

Make Regular And Open Communication A Habit. 
Make daily check-ins a habit now. Don’t wait until your kids are teens. Instead of asking, “how was your day?” or “how was school?” ask open ended, fun, and creative questions.

But here are some of the questions I start with for my family:
-What was the best/worst thing that happened at school today?
-Tell me something that made you laugh today.
-How did you help somebody today?
-If you could switch seats with anyone in the class who would you trade with? Why?
-If today had a theme song what would it be?
-What are the top 3 things that you hear people say in the halls?

Start Small. Pick One Thing at a Time to Change.
Choose just one manageable thing you can do create a positive change in yourself and/or your family. Choosing just one thing is more likely to result in success. After you have successfully made your one thing a habit, move to another thing if you like.

Get Involved In Your Community
One wonderful thing about living in Northcenter is that there are so many fun family and community. When I go to my favorite local coffee shop and look at the bulletin board, I am always amazed at all the cool stuff there is to do for parents and kids. Trust me, you will feel healthier and more protected from stress when you feel a sense of connection to others. Get involved with a parent support network, set up family playdates, and just get involved with things are you are excited about.

Get support
There are so many wellness focused providers and creative and healthy outlets right in our backyard. If you or someone in your family are still feeling overwhelmed after the first weeks of school, it is important to be proactive and get support now.

Talk to your child’s teacher or a therapist trained in working with children and parents. Or get a massage, and take a meditation or yoga class. Anything that can help you feel supported or better cope with stress will have a positive impact on your quality or life.

You can follow Dr. Hardin and Centered Therapy on Twitter at @CenteredTherapy​​​.