Jennifer Newman: Back to school can be stressful — especially for parents
With school just around the corner, some parents may be relieved, but it's still an adjustment, Newman says
The summer season is coming to a close, and for parents juggling vacations, work and activities for kids, this time of year might come as a relief.
But the adjustment can still be stressful, says workplace psychologist Jennifer Newman.
Stephen Quinn: It's back to school time for the kids, but how exactly does it affect parents?
Jennifer Newman: It's very distracting. Workers and kids are transitioning into a different routine — all summer long its been one thing and now its going to be different. Changes are welcome, but it's still an adjustment.
Psychologically, any change requires extra work. For kids, its going to be the new grades, new friends, even maybe a new school — and that's exciting and stressful.
Workers are going to notice nervous kids and excited ones. Plus that busy school day routine is going to be starting and that's going to add more things for people to juggle. It puts pressure on workers at this particular time of year.
But In some ways you get the predictability of school back as opposed to trying to keep them busy over the summer?
That's the positive side of the summer finishing. Now you have a routine to follow. However, you also have kids who may not have been getting up for early hours.
So reestablishing the routine is a big part of it?
A huge part of it. Children will be getting up and going to bed at scheduled times now, which is a relief — but you have to get them going into that routine. This whole transition is going to pressure workers to recreate routines again.
Things were more relaxed over the summer, and they're going to have to handle getting back into routine.
And all that back to school action ... how stressful is it?
It can create anxiety for workers, and anxiety for kids. We do see that, especially if there's concern for the worker about how their child's going to adjust to being back at school. Again there are questions for workers about how they're going to deal with all these challenging demands like adding the school calendar into your work calendar.
You need to worry about school drop-off and pickup times, lunch making every day, school supplies, clothes etc. These are things that may seem small, but when you add them all together, you have an extremely stressful few weeks ahead. So you can do some pre planning to deal with the uptick in demands.
Do most employers acknowledge that this is a time of transition? Do they tend to cut people a little bit of slack and kids are going back to school?
Each household is trying to assemble a bunch of moving parts into some kind of workable routine, and employers can assess workers in doing that, and make it explicit that they recognize that this is what's going on right now, for everybody who has kids this time of year.
Talking to staff about what they're going to need to the run up is helpful, be proactive. Work is part of the big picture, and the employer can be a big part of helping workers figure out all of this stuff and help them fit it in.
Any tips for people who are putting their kids back in school and heading back to work?
Folks need to let their employers know what their needs are during this time and not just silently muddle on through.
Speak to your supervisor about what you might need during this time because there are other people going through the same thing. That's the other part — look for ways to help each other as co-workers.
Another thing to think about is to have a family discussion about what extra-curricular activities are going to be happening, what the work schedule looks like. Talk about sharing responsibilities so that it's not just one person shouldering everything as soon as school starts.
With files from CBC's The Early Edition