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Stressed about back-to-school?

Friday, September 17, 2021

Stressed about back-to-school? 


Easing the school year transition

Dr. Kara Brandell, a child psychologist at Park Nicollet, also has some tips for parents to help ease the transition to the new school year.

Be aware, but don’t temper expectations. Acknowledge the gravity of the transition.

  • It’s OK for kids to be nervous about a transition like this and it’s also OK for parents too
  • For age groups who are returning to the classroom, familiarity will likely come quickly for most children
  • Parents should use empathy when talking about the return to the classroom, but expectations for listening to teachers, doing homework, following rules, etc. should remain in place
  • Discuss the protocols in your child’s school and set expectations


Take time at the start of the school year to develop a solid routine. Structure often decreases anxiety.

  • Examples: Consistent bed and wake times, consistent routine to prepare for school (i.e., lay out clothes the night before, make sure backpacks are packed the night before), consistent homework routine (no homework? Spend homework time reading).


Provide space to talk and be sure to listen.

  • Spend time with your children
  • Be willing to listen, distraction-free
  • Look for opportunities to discuss school and the process for returning to classroom learning – avoid interrogation but find time to just be together to allow the conversation to happen.
  • Bring younger age groups to the school, spend time near the school on the playground, playing basketball or playing catch, walk or drive by the school
  • Provide space for a conversation to happen and to let kids tell you what they need/how they feel, etc.


What parents should watch for in struggling children. Look for warning signs:

  • Irritability
  • Overreactions to things that didn’t bother them as much before
  • Change in sleep or eating patterns
  • Overly emotional
  • Changes in emotions and/or behaviors
  • Remember that kids and adolescents don’t always express these concerns (fears, worries, stress) with words or directly


Avoid drawing children into controversy.

  • Vaccines and mask use have become controversial subjects, but parents need to discuss those topics carefully with children. Help your kids process the controversy that’s occurring throughout our state in a way that will help maintain a positive learning environment
  • A disapproving parent can create a disapproving child and that can have a toxic impact on the learning environment
  • It’s important to have and express opinions and to model respect for the fact that others have different opinions. 
  • Despite what we believe relating to this pandemic and the impact on learning, we know that bringing these intense social conflicts into the classroom will not facilitate learning.


Don’t forget to focus on parental self-care

  • Kids pick up on parental stress and emotions
  • Take some time to focus on things that help you reduce your stress and will help you cope with this transition as well (Similar to the ‘put your oxygen mask on first because then you can help others’ approach)
  • This might be establishing your own exercise routine, making dinners ahead of time so you don’t have to worry about it after school, etc.


Additional resources

Our experts are also offering advice through media stories. Here are two recent stories to read and share: