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Soothing Back-to-School Anxiety

Here we are at the beginning of the school year, when play-time turns abruptly to work-time, when sleeping in is officially out, when academic and social pressure combine in a way that can give almost anyone the willies.

Here we are at the beginning of the school year, when play-time turns abruptly to work-time, when sleeping in is officially out, when academic and social pressure combine in a way that can give almost anyone the willies. Seeking advice, I turned to the Internet to find suggestions on how we parents can ease what might, for some, be a difficult transition.

After Googling “back-to-school anxiety,” the first website I came across, Family Education-dot-com, suggested that frank, one-on-one discussions with your children about specific worries are the place to start.

That sounded reasonable, so I sat down at the kitchen table with my daughter Belle, and I confided in her that I was feeling very anxious about the prospect of getting up extra early and having to make breakfast for everyone and getting us all dressed, fed and out of the house by 8:00 am, making sure that everyone had their backpacks, lunch money, homework assignments, P.E. clothes, signed permission slips, and whatever else was needed for the day. We just haven’t all been out of the house by 8:00 am more than a few times all summer and I’m thinking it’s going to be a difficult adjustment for me.

Belle looked at me with what amounted to a blank stare, or at least if it wasn’t blank it did not convey anything amounting to sympathy or understanding for what I might be going through. Despite that, I continued.

I had already started to feel overwhelmed, I confessed to her, as soon as I received the giant multi-colored stack of papers and forms from the school a month ago, with notices about school rules and policies, calendars with all kinds of activities I was supposed to sign myself or my kids up for, schedules of meetings for sports teams, chorus and drama, missives from the parent-teacher association, medical forms to be filled out, permissions slips for field trips, and exclamation-point-adorned admonitions about the consequences of forgetting to adequately deal with any of the above by the specified deadline.

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Belle looked at me with an expression I couldn’t quite place. It was not, however, anything I would categorize as caring and compassion.

So in frustration I turned back to the Family Education-dot-com website, along with some other websites offering advice on soothing back-to-school anxiety, to see if they had suggestions on how to handle your child’s lack of empathy as to your back-to-school anxiety. It was then that I discovered, through a more careful approach to reading, that all the remedies for back-to-school anxiety have been devised for the benefit of the school children themselves, not their mothers.

Well. That blows. Apparently no one is worried about the adjustment we moms might have to make as we transition from the freedom and flexibility of summer to the rigors and routines of school calendars which seem to have been created for those who can get by on four hours of sleep.

All I can think to do is to follow the advice of experts at Duke University, who suggest, among other things, steady breathing. Twenty inhales and twenty exhales, really paying attention to your breathing, at least twice a day in the morning and in the evening. Live in the moment, they say, and don’t fret so much about past or future events. Breathe in . . . breathe out. Despite the fact that they came up with this remedy with my children, not me, in mind, it actually seems to be working.

Though I don’t suppose that will matter much to my daughter Belle, who has, by the way, nothing but giddy enthusiasm for the prospect of going back to school.


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