Helping parents cope with stress – ThedaCare
At the end of the summer holidays, parents can find themselves stressed about getting everything ready for their children to return to school. Abby Smolcich, MD, pediatrician at ThedaCare Physicians-Darboy and mother of two, offers tips for coping with stress.
“Keeping track of all the things that need to be done before kids go back to school can be a challenge,” Dr. Smolcich said. “To me, lists help our family stay organized.”
She recommends parents create a list for each child and tick off tasks one by one, and also set aside time for self-care.
“Filling out forms, buying supplies and clothes, meeting new teachers and finding after-school child care are just some of the things that need to be done before the kids return, and that is a lot to manage,” acknowledged Dr. Smolcich. . “Making a list, planning ahead, dividing chores between parents, or enlisting help from friends can help reduce the load and stress.”
While two-parent families can more easily share the load, Dr. Smolcich suggests single parents seek help from grandparents, friends or neighbors if possible.
“If you have to buy school supplies, instead of always taking the kids, maybe ask a grandparent, friend or neighbor to be with them for a few hours so you can do this task without distraction and get it done faster,” she suggested.
She also recommends spreading the tasks over a long period of time.
“Try not to leave it all for the last week or two,” she said. “Spending 20-30 minutes a day doing one or two tasks can be really helpful in keeping things manageable.”
Dr Smolcich added that children easily recognize when parents are stressed or frustrated and this can contribute to their back-to-school stress.
“It can be difficult as parents to give us the grace to take care of ourselves when we’re feeling stressed,” she said. “It’s important for moms and dads to know that it’s okay to take time for themselves. I recommend that parents take the time to take care of themselves, and this can be different for each person. Anything that will help calm you down and ease your stress is what you should be doing. It doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking – maybe a walk, a jog or a bike ride on your own, a relaxing bath, a massage, going fishing for a few hours – whatever will allow you to take you away and give you the space you need.”
This time spent on self-care often benefits the whole family.
“When parents take care of themselves, our children see our stress decrease and it inspires good self-care in them,” she said. “It’s important for everyone to know that it’s okay to step back and take ‘me time’ when needed.”
Dr. Smolcich added that one of the best ways to reduce back-to-school stress is to make sure everyone gets plenty of rest. She strongly recommends that families start tracking school bed and wake times about a week before school starts.
“During the summer we tend to relax some rules and bedtime is often one of them,” she said. “Having everyone get back to bedtime and waking up routines at school ahead of time will definitely make those first days of school less stressful.”
At the end of the day, all parents experience some back-to-school stress; you are not alone, she noted.
“Sometimes it’s just the reality of our children growing up and moving into new phases that can hit us a little suddenly,” she said. “No matter the stress, doing your best is all we can really expect from ourselves. Nobody is perfect. Take one day at a time and enjoy the new experiences you and your child will have.