It’s hard to believe we are already here talking about Back to School. For some, the summer months have flown by and they are craving just a few more sun-soaked, fun-filled days, while for others, they are ready to enter back into the routine that a new school year brings.
An important thing to remember is that FEELINGS ARE TEMPORARY – they come and go, last for some time, but they always change. This is a vital piece of information for parents to keep in mind as they are supporting their children (and themselves) during this transition time. The biggest concerns of parents seem to be “how do I help my child manage their stress and anxiety?” A therapist’s response to that question may include “how are you managing your own stress and anxiety?”, in other words, how are you (as the parent) able to tolerate emotions in yourself and others?
Another useful response is “how can you find balance?” Throughout the countless conversations with parents and children, what kept coming through was a need for balance. The rule of Newton’s Third Law of Action and Reaction can apply here: for every action in nature there is an equal and opposite reaction. Why are we applying a science law to stress and anxiety? Hear us out….we don’t want our children to ignore or avoid their feelings, positive or negative, but we don’t want them to sit and stew in them endlessly, especially the negative ones.
Ability to recognize and become aware of feelings is the first step, tolerance and balance is the next one. We need to find an equal and opposite feeling – a balance – the balance between acknowledging and allowing the feeling (however difficult) and then countering the feeling with the opposite.
We want our children to build their coping skills, increase their resilience and establish a healthy relationship with their feelings and thoughts. This is one way to do that. Not only are you supporting them through a tough time, you are helping them build life-long skills to mental wellness! Back to School stress can be balanced out by gratitude, a perspective shift and some preparation. When stress increases, find a way to balance the stress out. Make the positive feelings as strong as the difficult ones.
Opposites allow us to find balance…
when we are sad, we try to feel better (happy);
when we are stressed, we try to relax;
when we are angry, we try to find calm;
when we are disappointed, we try to find gratitude;
when we are worried, we try to find reassurance.
Some ideas to try to find balance:
- For every stressor, find something to be grateful for
- Limit “worry” talk to a set period of time each day
- List your child’s worries and a strategy to use next to it
- When you are stressed, engage in a calming activity
- Remind yourself and your child that feelings are temporary and you can get through it
- Positive affirmations are a great way to start your day
Take-Aways from the UPside:
- Label all feelings out loud. Take the power out of a word by normalizing the feeling. We all experience all feelings – it’s normal! Remember feelings are temporary – they will change!
- Prepare ahead of time – can you spread out the to-do tasks over several days in the weeks leading up to school? Do 1 back to school activity (get school supplies) and then do 1 child-chosen activity. Doing them all at once can feel overwhelming – try to plan ahead of time and space it out.
- Practice — do a run-through of a school morning (waking up, getting ready, packing lunches and bags, getting out the door). Then go do something fun! Review with your child what their day might look like and their coping strategies or share what you do when you feel anxious or sad – to give them some ideas.