While some parents may be rejoicing at the idea of returning to “normal” schedules and some structure, for many, this time of year can cause a lot of anxiety.
Will your daughter or son like the new teachers, schedules and have their favorite friends in their classroom? Will this new year of math prove to be a challenge for him like it was last year? Will he experience social anxiety and be trying to “fit in”? Will she make the soccer team?
For some parents, anticipating the new school year can be tougher on them than it is on their children. Recently, researchers from John Hopkins University published findings in JAMA Internal Medicine that suggest that mindfulness meditation can help ease psychological stresses like anxiety.
Dr. Elizabeth Hoge, a psychiatrist at the Center for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress at Massachusetts General Hospital, says that mindfulness meditation makes sense for treating anxiety. “People with anxiety have a problem dealing with distracting thoughts that have too much power over them,” she says. According to Dr. Hoge, if you have unproductive worries, you can train yourself to recognize these patterns and notice thoughts (without judging them).
5 Ways to handle back-to-school anxiety with mindfulness
Connect with each other
You’re not the only member of the family feeling anxiety. Most likely your spouse and especially your kids are feeling it too. One of the best things you can do to relieve anxiety is to talk to each other. Set aside time to start a conversation as a family and follow up regularly.
Find out how your kids are doing and share coping methods like deep breathing and visualization. Model mindfulness practices like tuning in to your senses and noticing the thoughts that drift through your mind.
In addition, role play some scenarios kids may come up against, like how they might cope if they don’t make the team or if they aren’t in their friend’s class. Give them tools to use that can help ease anxiety.
Summon summer gratitude
Take a moment to reflect on all the highlights you shared with your family over the summer. Express gratitude for the longer, lazier days you had together. Remember the camping trips, funniest movies you saw or favorite new foods you discovered. Make another trip to that fabulous ice cream shop and remind each other that it’ll be there all year long to enjoy.
Identify all the things that will be meaningful to you when the school year starts and write them down.
Think of ways to improve your routine, like giving yourself more time in the morning, planning meals out and who’s making them each evening and organizing the carpool schedules before school starts rather than scrambling at the last minute.
Encourage your kids to do the same. Their intentions can include making one new friend this year, running for class president or getting help with math to raise their grade
Stop being so hard on yourself! There is no such thing as “perfect” parenting. And just assume getting everyone off to school again will come with some curveballs, because it always does. Be kind to yourself, even when you feel like you may have fallen short.
Most of us are trying to juggle family, work, friendships and many other commitments. So if you picked up lined paper when your kids needed unlined, or got them the wrong 3-ring binder, let yourself off the hook. It’ll all get sorted out. Learn practical tips from Dr. Tara’s self-compassion kit.
Be compassionate toward others
Remember, other parents, teachers and kids are all going through the same stress that you are feeling at this moment. So if a friend doesn’t call you back about carpool or your child isn’t immediately happy with a teacher he or she got, take a deep breath.
Remind yourself and your kids that everyone is under a great deal of stress that first week of school. We all need to extend to a little compassion and patience toward one another.
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