Today’s Family: Dealing with back to school stress

It’s back to school and for many families, a time of stress, worry, and anxiety. It’s a return to scheduled wake times, multiple activities, minimal free time, and utter chaos. How do I get my kids back on a routine that works after the carefree days of summer?

Don’t let your anxiety have you this school year. Consider telling your stress and worry, “I’ve got this,” and take on looking at the most hectic time of year (next to the holidays) as a new beginning full of possibility for calm, peace, and yes, ease!

Abraham Lincoln said, “The best way to predict your future is to create it.” In other words, if you want order and joy in your morning routine imagine just that. Come from what you would like to see happen rather than what you don’t want to happen.

Here’s an example of how this works. I am not a morning person. Therefore, the world I am creating has me not be a morning person and my waking hours are miserable. Creating the possibility of being joyful and calm in the morning has me seeing things from a whole new perspective.

Here is my back to school list for creating families that thrive, not just survive by counting down the days until winter break.

Live in the moment: Anxiety is always based in the future. When we look at all we have to do the list seems insurmountable. Stay in the moment at the task at hand and know that you will get it complete one moment at a time. Thinking about all the things you have to do keeps you in your head where anxiety lives and this will prevent you from getting into action.

Be creative: There are many solutions to a problem. Hear what all family members have to contribute to the situation. Consider something new from the way you use to do things that didn’t work. Have a family meeting once or twice a month where everyone gets to share their complaints and suggestions. Be open to listening to your kids as if they are capable and trustworthy.

Enlist help: Have each family member pick a task that they can commit to. When they don’t do it, except that they were ineffective rather then they have failed. What can they do to be more effective next time? Think of your family as a team!

Simplify: Deal with one thing at a time and don’t sweat the small stuff.  Kids see you trying to manage a to-do list of multiple items at once and think they need to do the same. Although we pride ourselves on our versatility, the truth is, it is not effective to multitask. For kids, thinking they need to do it all at once quickly stresses them out and costs them confidence.

Demonstrate self-care: If you follow one point from this list, make it this one. Considering the busy lives we all lead these days, self-care must be scheduled. Each person in the family should have a space for their own personal downtime every day. A persistent complaint here is that there is no time. Consider this: for every single hour you spend in self-care, you will double the amount of energy you have and create a clearing of space in your head to take on whatever it is you have to tackle each day with ease. To avoid a crisis, schedule a weekly family “happy hour” and check in on everyone’s mental health.

Foster independence:As parents, moms particularly, we tend to have an “I’ll do it myself and it will get done quicker” mentality. It may take some time to model and teach your child how to do something but the freedom you gain back and the empowerment you gift your child, is immeasurable.

Create a screen time policy: Be the example of what you want your children to learn. Think about who your kids are modeling with their screen time use. I noticed on my cell phone bill recently that I actually do three times more texting than my kids do.

Eat for nutrition: Meal time can be disastrous for busy and working families. Have the whole family get involved in meal planning, prep, and shopping. I wish I had these tips when my daughter was young and would only eat foods that were white. Instead of freaking out, I could have encouraged her to join me.

Forgive yourself for grabbing fast food occasionally. It happens. Avoid packaged foods and sugar as much as possible. Make small changes where you can. Provide ready to pack snacks like nuts and nut butters, fruit and cut vegetables, sugar-free protein and veggie bars. One night a week, cook or do lunch prep together. Let kids be responsible for planning or making one meal a week. Have breakfast for dinner. Eat dessert first as a monthly treat. Have a theme night once a month. I still do these things with my girls even know they are out of the house.

Do I do all of these things well? Of course not. It’s the commitment you make to your family every day that counts the most. Take on one thing from the list this month and work together to make it happen. Let me know how it goes. I have your back…pack.

*  Let’s connect on social media: Instagram @ DailyKimE or Facebook @ Today’s Family by Kim Engstrom for counseling advice, tips for modern families, relatable content, and shareable feel-good messages! If you’d like additional support this school year, contact me about my Back To School Program and see if it’s a fit for you and your team.

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About Kim Engstrom

Kim Engstrom is a certified mental health counselor and mother of two located in Chadds Ford. Online Counseling and Walk and Talk Therapy now available. For questions or more information on this topic visit or Facebook at Kim Engstrom and KE Counseling Services. A complimentary 30-minute discovery call or in office meeting is available to all first-time clients to discuss your family goals.



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