For many schools around the country, August means kids going back to school. It’s normal to feel stressed in the hustle and bustle to be ready for the first day of school. The Mental Health Center of Denver’s Day Treatment Team, Danielle Graves, LCSW, Hillary Haspel, LSW, and Sibyl Graham, LCSW, provided some advice on how to create space for self-care for yourself and your children. Day treatment programs provide mental health treatment and educational services to children whose emotional or behavioral disorders get in the way of their ability to be successful in a traditional public school setting.
Self-Care Tips for Parents
It’s okay to feel like you have trouble juggling everything your kids need when it’s time to go back to school. Between registration, school supplies shopping, finishing up summer activities, and getting back to the school year routine, life can begin to feel overwhelming. This is completely normal, and you’re not alone!
Caregivers should try to connect as soon as possible to their students’ community, including other caregivers, teachers and administration. While this may seem like another item on a long “to do” list, building a community of support is essential for self-care. Shared goals, culture and values bring us together and validate our emotions when we feel stressed out.
Another way to manage stress is to try to prevent scheduling confusion. Having a weekly or monthly visual calendar (a dry erase board, paper calendar or shared electronic calendar) can help keep parents and kids organized. By tracking after school activities, clubs, appointments and more, you can work with your kids to create stability, consistency and calm, even if the schedule looks daunting from the outside.
Most importantly, make sure to carve out “me time,” whether it’s taking a 5 minute breathing break, sitting outdoors, reading, listening to music or going on a walk. Self-care is important for parents to effectively care for their children. You are the best parent to your kids when you feel calm, engaged, and attentive. Taking time for yourself will help you create your own balance.
Tips for Parents of Teens
While it may feel like teenagers should have the back to school rhythm down to a fine science, that’s not always the case. Moving from the summer routine to school days can still be stressful for your teenager.
As your teen grows, teach them how to access the resources around them and who they can reach out to when the need occurs. Again, the more connected we are to our educational community the better. It’s extremely important that teens make connections with at least one positive adult in their world, whether that’s at school, in an after school group or with a religious group. Having a safe adult to talk to can help children and teens deal with challenges at school and home in a safe, healthy way.
Encourage your teens to complete their homework before engaging in preferred activities. You already know how hard it is to grab their attention once they’re engaged with a screen or other activity. Helping them build the habit of getting the necessary work out of the way ahead of time can avoid possible battles before they start.
Another way to help your teens relax is through using calming music, body movement (walking, running, dancing, biking), or journaling. These activities are appropriate ways to relieve stress and give your kid ways to keep their mind and body healthy. This is also a great way to create family time and to help your kid discover stress-relieving activities they love.
Tips for Parents of Elementary-Age Kids
When you teach your younger kids about self-care, the most critical part is leading by example and doing things together. Children learn how to practice self-care and regulate their emotions from those around them. Go on family walks, read together, listen to calming music – do activities as a family that show your children how you relieve stress in age-appropriate ways.
At this age, children learn by absorbing the world around them. They are old enough to understand how strong emotions feel and how it feels to be calm and relaxed. Help your kids to figure out ways they like to relax and how to talk about their feelings. By giving them the tools and words to tell you what they feel, you will be able to better understand their self-care needs.