Thrive on Campus//

6 Ways to Ease Back-to-School Stress

Going back to school is stressful, especially after a long, relaxing summer. Here are some ways to adjust to the new school year.

panitanphoto / Shutterstock
panitanphoto / Shutterstock

Welcome to our special section, Thrive on Campus, devoted to covering the urgent issue of mental health among college and university students from all angles. If you are a college student, we invite you to apply to be an Editor-at-Large, or to simply contribute (please tag your pieces ThriveOnCampus). We welcome faculty, clinicians, and graduates to contribute as well. Read more here.

The dog days of summer… Long days that blend into tranquil warm evenings, last chances to barbecue or picnic… Time spent with friends and family. The transition from summer to fall can be stress-inducing with prepping and sending kids back to school, starting to contemplate the rush of the holidays, and a general return to our fast-paced 21st century life. And let’s not even start with the traffic. Ahh, to be a kid again… But not so fast.

Our kids feel the stress of the back to school transition as well, and perhaps in ways we may not even see. At the schools the L.A. Promise Fund runs, we notice that many students have a hard time adjusting to getting up early to get to school after a summer of sleeping in, or at the very least, sleeping in a bit later. For high school seniors, the year ahead presents many opportunities for stress — the upcoming deadlines for college applications, the stomach-churning anxiety of high-stakes tests like the SAT and ACT, worries about college tuition, final exams, and prom date uncertainty. As adults we forget the social fishbowl that schools are and how everything from what students wear to who they hang out with become epic decisions. Imagine if we had had social media back in our day. Being a student today is not for the faint of heart.

We can support our students by helping them be as well prepared for school and school days as they can be. Here are some helpful back-to-school stress-busting tips we have seen help our kids:

1. Ensure they get enough sleep. Summer days are long. Getting up early in August or September to get to class can be especially hard on teens and pre-teens who need more sleep than adults. Starting to transition to an earlier rising hour can be made easier by gradually moving up their wake-up time the two weeks prior to the start of school. Ensuring that students get to bed in time to get seven to nine hours of sleep is also crucial, especially when homework becomes a factor.

2. Encourage them to eat well — or at least, not really bad! This can be tough with teens and pre-teens. As parents and educators, we do not control what they eat anymore. But we can offer healthier options. If they really like apples or berries or whatever healthy thing they actually like, we can ensure they have plenty of that. Too much sugar will cause energy crashes in the afternoon and disrupt sleep at night. Make a real effort to engage your student in a conversation about what healthy foods they do like and go from there.

3. Make sure they drink water! Summer is a great time to get kids off the soda they may drink during the school year. Buy them shiny new water bottles and offer lots of water at home to ensure they are hydrated.

4. Keep in touch. Ask your students everyday how their day was and what they learned in school or what they did at sports practice. Even if all you get are one-word answers or the classic “nothing” mumbled back with a shoulder shrug, asking them reminds them that you care.

5. Stay focused on what is important. Like adults, student can get mired in the details of life. They can get tripped up on minutiae and lose focus on the bigger picture. Be an example of “not sweating the small stuff” and taking a breath when things seems to be too much. Help them remain calm.

6. Remind them that you are in their corner — no matter what. The unconditional love and support of parents, guardians, and family can help mitigate the stresses of school and keep kids on track academically, keep them engaged in positive developmental activities like sports and clubs, and help them develop a hopeful, positive attitude towards schools and towards their future.

Have a great year!

Subscribe here for all the latest news on how you can keep Thriving.

More on Mental Health on Campus:

What Campus Mental Health Centers Are Doing to Keep Up With Student Need

If You’re a Student Who’s Struggling With Mental Health, These 7 Tips Will Help

The Hidden Stress of RAs in the Student Mental Health Crisis

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres. We publish pieces written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Learn more or join us as a community member!
Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...

Thrive on Campus//

Stress Culture at Hopkins: Reflections From a Recent Grad

by Jacqui Neber
Thrive on Campus//

How Going to a College With Access to Nature Helped My Anxiety

by Nico Ravitch
Cambridge, MA, United States - April 9, 2016: Harvard University campus in spring in Cambridge, MA, United States on April 9, 2016.
Thrive on Campus//

Stress Contagion on College Campuses

by Katie Peters

Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

Thrive Global
People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.