With summer holidays drawing to a close, it’s time to start preparing kids to return to school.
Michelle Gagnon, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Saskatchewan, said the next few days are a good time to start easing children back into school mode.
“Often, children have been in their ‘summer fun’ schedule where you might have a later bed time, you might be doing all sorts of fun activities and getting back in that routine can be very difficult,” she said.
Gagnon said overall, ensuring kids are sleeping well and eating healthy are some of the best ways parents can help make back-to-school easier.
“Those are two very basic things that parents can do to get kids on the right track. And start talking with their kids about what back-to-school is going to look like, what the schedule is going to be so there’s no surprises,” she said.
Gagnon said many kids will experience heightened levels of stress during the transition back to classes. Some signs a child might be struggling include not wanting to participate in activities they used to enjoy, or not wanting to spend time with friends.
“Changes in their social patterns, that’s definitely a factor to be aware of,” she said.
Gagnon said young people can have trouble understanding and talking about stress, which can cause it to appear in other ways.
“So, if you’re noticing that your child or your teen is complaining of more stomach aches, more headaches than they really ever used to, that might be a sign that there might be some anxiety, or maybe a mood problem going on.”
Parents urged to avoid ‘the compare game’
While back-to-school can be stressful for children, Gagnon said it’s also a time of year that also leaves many parents feeling like they don’t measure up.
She said the age of social media has made it all too easy to play what she calls “the compare game.”
“We put so much pressure on ourselves to be the best, to be perfect. You know: ‘that family, that parent is doing all of these things and I feel like I can’t even juggle these small tasks.'”
Gagnon said it can be tough, but urged parents to try to focus on making sure their kids are healthy and happy — even if they might not have Pinterest-perfect lunches or outfits.
“I doubt that it’s your goal to really make sure your child has, you know, the best shoes compared to all the other kids in the class,” she said.
She said it can even be worthwhile for parents to write down what their goals and values are for their kids, so they have something fairer to measure themselves against.
“Just focusing in on those things, and looking for evidence you’re doing those things: You’re doing your best and you’re trying hard to meet the values you’ve set out for you and your family,” she said.