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Managing Stress During the Back to School Transition: A Guide for Parents

As the end of summer approaches, the familiar rhythm of the back-to-school season sets in, signaling a time of transition for families across the country. While this period can be exciting, it often comes with a myriad of challenges and stressors for parents. From juggling new schedules to dealing with school-related anxieties, the back-to-school transition can bring about increased stress and uncertainty for parents.

Whether you are a seasoned parent with older children or experiencing this transition for the first time, the tips and insights shared here will help you build a strong foundation for handling stress and fostering a seamless return to the school routine.

Creating a back-to-school gameplan

The key to a successful back-to-school transition lies in creating a well-organized and thoughtful game plan. By preparing in advance and involving the whole family, parents can ease the stress and uncertainties that often accompany this time of year.

Get organized

Organization is a key way to prevent overwhelm and unnecessary stress. Start by creating a central family calendar where all important dates, school events, extracurricular activities, and parent-teacher meetings can be noted. This visual representation of the month's schedule helps everyone stay on the same page and reduces the likelihood of missed appointments or conflicting commitments.


You don’t have to tackle every back-to-school responsibility on your own. Share the load by delegating age-appropriate tasks to each family member. Children can take part in packing their school bags, preparing lunch boxes, or helping with household chores. Delegating responsibilities not only lightens the burden on parents, but also teaches children valuable life skills and fosters a sense of responsibility, promoting a well-organized and harmonious household.


To foster a smooth back-to-school transition, open communication with children is paramount. Involving children in the planning process empowers them and builds their confidence for the new school year. Additionally, holding regular family meetings allows for discussing schedules, upcoming events, and any challenges that arise, fostering a sense of unity and collaboration among all family members.

Establish (or re-establish) a bedtime routine

Transitioning from late nights and relaxed routines back to early mornings and structured bedtimes can be challenging, but a consistent sleep schedule is essential for children's overall well-being and academic success. Start adjusting your child's bedtime gradually, at least a week before school starts, if not earlier. Move bedtime 15 minutes earlier each night until the desired bedtime is achieved. You can also create a relaxing bedtime routine to signal to your child that it's time to wind down. Activities like reading a book together, taking a warm bath, or practicing relaxation exercises can help them transition from active play to a calm state before sleep.


Check-in with your children to see how they’re feeling about heading back to school. This transition can be challenging for some children and can even lead to separation anxiety. Encourage them to share their feelings and expectations about the upcoming changes, and listen attentively to any concerns they may have, responding with empathy and understanding.

Managing stress when heading back to school

Beyond managing the logistics of the end of summer and back-to-school season, you must also take care to manage your own stress and well-being. Here are some practical approaches to help parents navigate the stresses of this period:

  • Practice self-compassion: Be kind to yourself and recognize that it's normal to feel stressed during transitions. Avoid self-criticism and instead, practice self-compassion by speaking kindly to yourself and acknowledging that you are doing your best.

  • Set realistic expectations: Understand that perfection is not attainable, and it's okay to have some challenges during the back-to-school period. Set realistic expectations for yourself and your children, allowing room for adjustments and flexibility as needed.

  • Prioritize self-care: It’s all too easy to neglect self-care practices during times of stress. Do your best to make time for activities that bring you joy and relaxation. Engage in hobbies, exercise, meditation, or spend time with friends to recharge your energy.

  • Reach out for support: Don't hesitate to lean on your support network, whether it's family, friends, or other parents. Your loved ones may be able to offer instrumental support, like helping with back-to-school shopping or other tasks, or just provide a friendly listening ear. Talking to others who understand your situation can be reassuring and validating. Remember that you’re not going through this alone.

  • Practice mindfulness: Incorporate mindfulness practices into your daily routine to stay present and reduce anxiety. Breathing exercises and meditation can be helpful tools to reduce stress in as little as a few minutes.

  • Seek professional help: If stress becomes overwhelming or persistent, don't hesitate to seek support from a therapist or counselor. A trained therapist can support you in managing stress and learning coping strategies to reduce overwhelm.

Getting support with back to school

The end of summer doesn’t need to be a time of chaos, dread, and overwhelm. The back-to-school transition may be stressful, but you don’t need to deal with managing stress all on your own. Working with an experienced therapist can be a great way to get the support and care you need during this challenging time.

At Westmoreland Psychotherapy Associates, our therapists are highly skilled at helping people cope with stressful life transitions, like the back-to-school transition. Our therapists specialize in evidence-based strategies that can help you reduce stress and anxiety, develop helpful coping strategies, and build resilience.

Remember, seeking help is a sign of strength, and taking care of your mental health is a valuable investment in your overall happiness and your family's harmony. Reach out to us today to get started.


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