For many, this time of year brings an avalanche of stress. In fact, in some surveys, parents identify the start of the new school year as one the most stressful times. But it doesn't have to be.
What if all this stress was actually good for you? What if it could make you stronger and sharper?
It can argues neuro-psychologist Ian Robertson in his new book “The Stress Test: How Pressure Can Make You Stronger and Sharper.” Robertson has published more than 200 books and articles on behavior change and brain health.
The key to making stress work for you, says Robertson, is to re-frame what is happening.
“A key factor in whether someone reacts to stress as a threat or a challenge … is control," he shared in a recent interview. "People who believe that they have some control over their lives, no matter what the objective circumstances, are more likely to see stress as a challenge to face up to, rather than as a threat to retreat from.”
For parents, a new school year comes with many things that trigger stress, including the dreaded back-to-school shopping trips.
For kids, getting "cool" clothes and school supplies are paramount while for parents the priorities are buying their kids clothing that meets restrictive school dress codes, finding the many specific items on supply lists and paying for it all.
If that wasn't enough, parents worry about the possibility of their child being the subject of bullying at school, getting to know the expectation of new teachers and adjusting to the demands of new delivery and pick-up schedules.
It’s no wonder that the start of school often is a dreaded event.
Add to that the stress of getting your kids to extra-curricular activities and school functions and helping them with homework and the other demands required to make good grades.
Robertson says taking the time to do a little planning and talking things through with all family members can turn this into a better experience for all.
Here's Robertson's new school year stress-cutting strategies.
1. Talk through your family's work and school schedules; brainstorm solutions for conflicts and problems.
2. Start a transition time a week or two in advance of school changes. Implement a new meal and sleep schedule and nail down breakfast and lunch-making routines.
3. Don’t over-schedule yourself or your kids. Having your kids playing two or three sports sounds like fun until all become exhausted from the many the games and practices.
4. Make sure your child has at least one day a week with no after-school activities or obligations. Everyone needs some down time, especially a school-age child.
5. Give yourself time to relax. Schedule time to be with your partner. Relationships often suffer during the busy school season.
Robertson says that by delegating some responsibilities to others and staying organized, you can help your family get through the new school year minefield.
Tamra Bolton is a freelance writer based in East Texas.