Back to school: how to support your child

Un père aide son enfant à faire ses devoirs

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Back to school is upon us and involves its fair share of stress for both parents and children. Adults have to manage buying school supplies, finding healthy lunch recipes, making sure school clothes fit, and more! As for the kids, they have to cope with experiencing a lot of uncertainty and getting back into the swing of things after two months off.

Let’s just say back to school is a busy time for families. Fortunately, understanding sources of stress can go a long way toward relieving them. Find out how to better equip yourself and get ready to have a more positive back-to-school experience.

Stress in children

Most kids are excited to start a new school year. But some equate going back to school with the end of the world. And they’ve got good reason: back-to-school is the perfect storm of real sources of stress for little ones. Sonia Lupien, director of the Centre for Studies on Human Stress (This hyperlink will open in a new tab), defines the main stress factors using the acronym NUTS:

  • Novelty, something new
  • Unpredictability
  • Threat to the ego
  • Sense of control

Back-to-school season can be NUTS incarnate for an extremely anxious child. They don’t know what class they’ll be in, who their teacher will be or if any of their friends will be in the same class. They also know they’ll be learning a bunch of new things and may worry about getting it right. All these unknowns can cause some major stress and leave a child irritable, sad, aggressive or even detached in the weeks leading up to the start of school. The good news is that we’ve all been there. So, we can understand our child's emotional turmoil and help them manage it better.

Reducing little ones' stress

It’s possible to reduce your child’s level of stress during the back-to-school period. We’ve got some ideas to lower their anxiety and make things go more smoothly for the whole family.

  1. Set a good example. The start of the school year can be a stressful time for parents as well. Remember that little eyes are watching your every move and reaction. Avoid negative comments about how much school supplies cost or how you have to make school lunches again. Your child will pick up on your positive attitude.
  2. Back to the routine. A routine is reassuring. Get your routine back on track a week before school starts. Earlier bedtime, reduced screen time, balanced meals eaten together as a family. Your child will adjust to this new post-vacation rhythm and be ready, willing and able to dive into the new school year.
  3. Have a look around. If your child is starting at a new school, why not schedule a visit? They can check out the new location and get the lay of the land before school starts. Removing that fear of the unknown means your student knows what to expect and where to go, which will help wash away oodles of stress.
  4. Give back control. Let your child make some of their own decisions. This will give them a sense of being in control of the situation. They can pick out their new school bag, snacks and the clothes they’ll wear. If a child feels in control, they’ll be more able to handle a new situation.
  5. Keep an open mind. Encourage your child to talk to you and listen to their concerns without downplaying them. You’ll all make it through this challenging time much easier with some active listening, patience and lots of encouragement.

Stress in parents

Of course, back-to-school time can affect you too. The chaotic morning rush, rides to figure out, a kid who doesn’t want to get dressed: all these things pile up to create a higher than usual level of stress. In parents, particularly evident during the back-to-school period, stress can lead to some pretty serious consequences.

On a personal level

It’s common to feel overwhelmed by back-to-school responsibilities. It’s true. There’s so much to do! Mom or Dad may be a tad impatient or overexcited, have trouble making decisions or feel a little off. They may also experience physical pain, sleep badly and lose their appetite. This destructive combination can harm the family mojo: one parent's unhappiness infects all family members. A parent with a thousand things on their mind may also be less attentive. A mind cluttered with too heavy a mental load can make you forget important things…


On a professional level

Stress doesn’t exist in a vacuum. What you experience at home permeates your work life and vice-versa. Impatience, fatigue and lack of concentration happening at home follows you into the office. So, you have less mental space to perform your professional duties and this puts a drag on your productivity. What started out as some temporary stress can turn into total burnout.

And some tips for you!

There are many ways to make this time of year less disruptive. Here are a few pointers to help you navigate through these demanding weeks.

  1. Sleep! Rest is your best weapon against stress. Lack of sleep makes you more vulnerable to tension. By getting the right amount of sleep, you’ll be better equipped to cope with the full weeks ahead.
  2. Don’t leave things until the last minute. Spread out purchases and preparations over several weeks before the big day. That way, you can stagger your expenses and prioritize tasks. Organization is your best friend when there’s a lot to do.
  3. Practice anti-stress techniques. Now’s a good time to sign up for yoga, do some deep breathing, meditation or a sport. All these are proven methods to take your level of stress down a notch.
  4. Turn back to school into an event to celebrate. This is a pivotal time for your child. Even though it’s stressful for everybody, channel this energy into a party-like atmosphere.
  5. Release all that energy. Stress takes up a lot of energy. This negative energy builds up and starts to put a lot of pressure on the body. Get rid of this energy by taking a nice walk, blasting your favourite tunes or weeding the garden. No need to go all out to calm down.

Your insurer gets it

Your overall health benefits when sources of stress are reduced. You’ll have fewer days off work, forgo taking medication and be more present for your loved ones. But if stress gets the upper hand and you need help, you can always count on our support to get you through.

By focusing on actions that prevent and reduce stress, you can make back to school a memorable and exciting event.