Updated: Aug 16
Transitioning children to go back to school can be an overwhelming and anxiety-filled period for moms. Facing the juggling act of work, school, and family—from shopping for school supplies to coordinating busy schedules, managing extracurricular activities, and trying to strike a balance between professional, academic, and parental duties—is pretty daunting.
The stress is further compounded by concerns about our children's well-being and making sure they are emotionally prepared for the new academic challenges and able to cope with potential changes in their social circles. The anticipation of the unknown, coupled with the pressure to provide our kids with the best possible start to the school year, can weigh heavily on a mother's mental and emotional state.
In the midst of this chaotic back-to-school period, it becomes crucial for women returning to college or moms managing back-to-school for kids to recognize the significance of taking care of our own needs and seek support from our partners, friends, or community to ensure our own well-being is not neglected while we strive to encourage our children's (and potentially our own) successful back-to-school transition.
In this article, let's explore prioritizing mental health for moms with some organizational tips for helping the back-to-school period run smoother by learning coping skills that will help you to navigate the complexities of back-to-school season with compassion and resilience for yourself and your children.
Tips for a Smoother School Year
Promote Positive Mental Health for Mom through Structure:
When our physical spaces and daily routines are organized, it can lead to calmer and more focused minds for everyone. Here are some ideas for getting yourself and your family organized for the school year:
Get a family calendar. Designate a visible and easily accessible spot in your home for the whiteboard calendar. This could be in the kitchen, hallway, or any area where everyone passes by frequently. Assign different colors to each family member and use the colors to mark individual activities and commitments on the calendar. This makes it easy to quickly identify who has what event at a glance. Seek out the academic calendar for your school and make note of any important dates, late starts, or days off. You can carry this system with you by doing this same process in your phone by creating a Google calendar for each family member, assigning each calendar a color, and syncing each calendar to show up on your calendar.
Schedule weekly family meetings: Pick a time at the beginning of each week and sit down as a family to plan the week ahead. Add any new events or appointments to the whiteboard calendar together to ensure everyone is on the same page.
Establish before-and-after school routines so everyone in the family knows what to expect and what routine to maintain. Providing structure and predictability for children helps reduce stress and anxiety. For younger children, providing a visual showing tasks to be completed can be helpful.
Create a homework kit. A homework kit is a handy collection of supplies that students can use to complete their homework and study effectively. It serves as a one-stop solution for all the materials needed for academic tasks, reducing the likelihood of distractions and time wasted searching for supplies. Depending on your kids’ ages, supplies can include: a container to hold the materials, like this one or this one, markers, pencils, pens, extra paper, glue, a calculator, scissors, a ruler, art supplies, and even some healthy snacks.
Establish a designated study area at home where your child can do homework and their homework kit can live. Ensure it is as quiet, organized, and free from distractions as possible. This space should promote a work-from-home office feeling and can even mirror the space you use as an adult to send the message that homework is as important as adult work. Doing homework in the same place each day helps train the brain to anticipate the activity and prepare itself to be in the best mode for study
Create simple meal plans for breakfasts, school lunches, and dinners. You don’t need to get fancy for you and your kids to achieve balanced nutrition, and there are plenty of sample meal plans out there for inspiration!
Reestablish healthy sleep habits:
During summer break, children's sleep schedules often become more relaxed, with later bedtimes and irregular wake-up times. However, the abrupt shift to early school mornings can lead to sleep deprivation and difficulties in adjusting to the demands of the school day. To avoid these issues, aim to gradually readjust your children's sleep routines a few weeks before school starts.
Prioritize your to-do list:
The amount of tasks for moms to do during this time of year seems endless, but you know the saying: when everything is a priority, then nothing is. One way to prioritize your tasks is by using the Urgent-Important Matrix. Here’s what to do:
Step 1: List Your Tasks
Start by listing all the tasks and activities you need to accomplish covering all life areas: academic, personal, and professional.
Step 2: Determine the Urgency and Importance
Assess each task's urgency and importance. Urgency refers to how soon a task needs to be completed, while importance relates to how much it aligns with your goals and contributes to your success.
Step 3: Create the Matrix
Draw a grid with two axes representing urgency and importance. Label the quadrants as follows:
Quadrant 1: Urgent and Important
Quadrant 2: Important but Not Urgent
Quadrant 3: Urgent but Not Important
Quadrant 4: Not Urgent and Not Important
Step 4: Categorize Tasks
Place each task from your list into the corresponding quadrant based on its level of urgency and importance.
Step 5: Quadrant 1—Prioritize
Start by tackling tasks in Quadrant 1 (Urgent and Important). These are critical tasks that demand immediate attention to prevent problems or meet urgent deadlines.
Step 6: Quadrant 2—Schedule
After handling urgent tasks, shift your attention to Quadrant 2 (Important but Not Urgent). These are tasks that should be scheduled. Prioritize activities that contribute to your long-term goals, personal growth, and overall success.
Step 7: Quadrant 3—Delegate!
Evaluate tasks in Quadrant 3 (Urgent but Not Important). This is an important one. If possible, delegate these tasks to others! I know it's hard, but let go of control and let your support system help with any tasks that do not require your direct involvement.
Step 8: Quadrant 4—Limit or Eliminate
Lastly, avoid tasks in Quadrant 4 (Not Urgent and Not Important). These are time-wasting activities that offer little value. Limit or eliminate engagement in activities that don't contribute to your goals or well-being.
Step 9: Review and Adjust
Regularly review and update your Urgent-Important Matrix. As new tasks arise or priorities shift, make adjustments to ensure you stay focused and productive.
Here's a helpful video talking more about the process of prioritizing your tasks.
Anticipate big emotions from your kids:
At the beginning of the school year, it's common for kids to experience a wide range of mixed emotions. Some children may feel excited about reuniting with friends, meeting new teachers, and engaging in new activities, while others may feel anxious or nervous about the changes and uncertainties that come with a new academic year. As parents, it's essential to recognize and acknowledge these emotions and provide the necessary support to help children navigate through them. This could look like:
Encouraging your children to share their thoughts and worries about the upcoming school year without judgment.
Listening actively and validating their emotions, reassuring them that it's normal to feel a mix of emotions during transitions.
Teach your child coping strategies for dealing with stress or anxiety, such as deep breathing exercises or positive affirmations.
Being empathetic, understanding, and patient as your child adapts to the new school year.
Transition periods can take time, and each child may adjust at their own pace. Offer continuous support, encouragement, and love to help them thrive throughout the school year.
Anticipate big emotions from yourself!
Handling big emotions as a mom during the back-to-school transition can be challenging, but it's essential to prioritize your emotional well-being. Here are some strategies to help you manage your emotions during this period:
Acknowledge your feelings: Recognize and accept that it's normal to experience a mix of emotions during this transition. Whether it's excitement, anxiety, or sadness, give yourself permission to feel without judgment.
Be mindful of expectations: Be realistic about what you can accomplish. Set reasonable expectations for yourself and your family during the back-to-school transition, knowing that it's okay to take things one step at a time.
Practice self-compassion: Be kind and compassionate to yourself. Parenting comes with its share of challenges, and it's okay to feel overwhelmed. Remind yourself that you're doing your best and that it's okay to have moments of vulnerability. Therapist KC Davis' How to Keep House While Drowning is a short but powerful guide to approaching daily tasks with self-compassion.
Communicate with your partner and support network: Talk to your partner, friends, or other supportive individuals about your feelings. Sharing your emotions can provide relief and support as you navigate the back-to-school transition together.
Model wellness for your children by prioritizing self-care: Make time for self-care activities that recharge and rejuvenate you. Whether it's meditation, exercise, reading, or spending time in nature, taking care of yourself is vital for managing emotions effectively.
Create meaningful rituals: Establish special back-to-school rituals or traditions that bring joy and create positive memories for your family during this time of change. For example, if you have a younger child, create a ritual integrating The Kissing Hand during school drop-off.
Schedule self-care and downtime: Busy calendars and endless to-do lists can become overwhelming no matter how many strategies we use to keep organized. Mental health tends to increase in the summer because there are holidays, vacations, and more time spent outside. That doesn't have to end during back-to-school season. Schedule intentional self-care time onto your calendar and encourage other family members to do the same. Likewise, it is important to see some whitespace in our calendars. Block off "unallocated" times, especially on weekends, when nothing is planned and you and the family get to fill the time with whatever feels right in the moment to fill your cups.
Struggling to apply these tips?
If you or your children find that emotions are overwhelming or interfering with daily life, a licensed therapist can help provide valuable tools for managing emotions and stress.
Reach out to Her Time Therapy to schedule a free consultation at (720) 255-1667, email email@example.com, or visit our website at www.hertimetherapy.com.
About the Author
Lauren Veazey, MA, is a graduate student in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and the Intake Coordinator for Her Time Therapy, LLC, a group therapy practice specializing in teletherapy for women. As a therapist in training under the supervision of Her Time Therapy founder Meagan Clark, she believes in the healing power of therapy for women to love themselves, trust themselves, and know themselves.
*Disclaimer: This blog does not provide medical advice and the information contained herein is for informational purposes only. This blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a licensed health provider before undertaking a new treatment or health care regimen.
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