Editor’s note: Wellness Word is an informational column which is not meant to replace a health care professional’s diagnosis, treatment or medication.
Making the transition into September
The month of September can be filled with anticipation, excitement, hesitation, anxiety and added stressors not only for school age children and teens but for their parents as well.
This is the month when children start a new school year after three months of limited structure. They have been sleeping in, staying up late, participating in various activities, having no homework and little routine to a set schedule. Parents and children begin to organize and get ready for the fall season as if we have not experienced it before though actually, this comes around every September.
As the parent of a seven year old son and a ten year old daughter, thinking of the tasks ahead makes my head spin. I know when the time comes to tackle the listed stressors, my head will have felt as if it did a complete 360. Once the spinning stops and my vision is not clouded, the question I ask would be “How can I tackle these added responsibilities and still come out level-headed and still hold it together?”
Most parents of school age children know the stressors related to the back to school time of year. All families have experienced the disruption of schedule changes, financial pressure of buying school clothes/shoes, school supplies, school lunches, finding child care/before and after school activities and transportation issues.
Some practical advice to assist with making the transition into September to be as smooth as possible would be:
• About two weeks before the first day of school, have your children go to bed as they would for a school night and start the evening schedule as if they were going to school the next day, this will help the children adjust to the changes physically and also emotionally and mentally.
• A few weeks before school, have children start taking time to do some reading, writing and math (reviewing their last year’s skills) so they can be confident entering the new school year.
• Do school supply and school clothes shopping early. Don’t forget to look for sales and extra coupons to help with the cost. Don’t be afraid to check with schools and other agencies about help for school supplies, school clothes, lunches or list of before and after school activities along with childcare. Childcare is one of the most difficult issues for working parents but it is essential and requires time, patience and care to find the right one for you and your children.
• Have a conversation with children about how they feel, what worries them about the school year. If they are attending a new school, see if a tour can be taken before the first day begins.
For the parents: Maintaining our own healthy routine is essential and will help keep us balanced during this time of excitement and anticipation. Make sure to get enough sleep, eat healthy, exercise and use mindfulness activities to keep grounded. These activities could include deep breathing exercises, meditation, yoga and visualization.
The start of a new school year is just one possible stressor at this time of year. There are many other stressors – life transitions, illness, loss and grief, financial burdens, relationship issues and trauma.
If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, anxious, depressed, not sleeping well, nervous or more irritable than normal, help is available to learn skills to manage these challenges. A therapist can journey with you, offering support, specific skills and encouragement.
Joanne Stowell, MSW ASWB, 503.802.1023 www.shepherdspathway.org.