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Back-to-school anxiety? Here's how to help your kids cope, according to an expert

The back-to-school season can cause both excitement and anxiety for many children and parents.

A blue backpack filled with supplies for the back to school season. (Photo via Getty Images)
High performance coach Jenna Hermans has various tips on how parents can take care of themselves and manage their children's emotions during the back-to-school season. (Photo via Getty Images)

This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Contact a qualified medical professional before engaging in any physical activity, or making any changes to your diet, medication or lifestyle.

When we think of back-to-school, it's typically backpacks, pencil cases and school buses that come to mind. But amidst the excitement of the season, it can also cause a lot of anxiety for children and parents.

Changes in classes, teachers and classmates can sometimes overwhelm kids, along with separation anxiety and general uncertainty about their day-to-day life. For parents, dealing with cranky children or your own productivity goals during this time might be daunting.

That's why Yahoo Canada enlisted the help of Jenna Hermans, a high performance coach and author of "Chaos to Calm: 5 Ways Busy Parents Can Break Free from Overwhelm."

As you and your children prepare for the back-to-school season, read on for tips and answers to some of the most-asked questions about this transitory time.

How can parents help manage their children's emotions during back-to-school?

The back-to-school season can bring a range of emotions for children, including stress, overwhelm and frustration.

According to Hermans, it's important that parents let their kids know their feelings are valid and normal.

"It's completely typical and normal to have feelings of stress or overwhelm when going back to school," Hermans said.

The mother-of-four explained that a great way to help children though this emotional time is by reminding them of years past, which might help them feel more calm and comfortable.

"Remind your child of times when they have felt this way in the past, like if they felt this way last year, before going to a party, or another circumstance in which they felt the similar feeling of overwhelm," she said.

"It's completely typical and normal to have feelings of stress or overwhelm when going back to school."Jenna Hermans

Hermans added that associating their feelings with a "momentary moment" that they can overcome could yield positive results.

But for parents still struggling with managing their child's emotions, they should try a series of coping mechanisms to help get them through the day.

For example, when school starts, Hermans suggested parents give their child an item that's comfortable from home, such as a stuffed animal, a stone or a piece of jewelry.

"It helps with things like separation anxiety to say, 'Here's a special item you can put in your pocket or your backpack' to help them feel at home all day long," she said.

A child scrunched up into a ball sitting on a bench, as an angry adult confronts them. (Photo via Getty Images)
It's common for children to be scared, hesitant or overwhelmed about going back to school. (Photo via Getty Images)

What should you do if you don't like your child's new friend?

According to Hermans, parents not liking their child's new friend or teacher is more common than people may think.

While this can be difficult to deal with, there are some things to help parents understand and get through the situation.

"I would first ask, 'Why don't you like this new friend? What is it about that friend or teacher that you don't like, and how can you get a better understanding?'" she said.

"Oftentimes we make snap judgments about people without really understand what's underneath those."

"They're kids. They're evolving and maturing at rapid speed and they're figuring out life, too."Jenna Hermans

After grasping the situation better, the mindfulness expert recommended parents approach the situation with curiosity and perspective.

For example, are there other people to talk to about the situation? What boundaries should be created with their child, and what should be let go?

"Not every teacher will teach like you want them to, and your kids will always meet different people in life — and that's OK! But snap judgements don't really do much good here," Hermans said.

"Also, they're kids. They're evolving and maturing at rapid speed and they're figuring out life, too."

A person meditating, as they sit with their legs crossed and their hands resting on both knees. (Photo via Getty Images)
Parents should make time for self care during the back-to-school season. (Photo via Getty Images)

How can parents look after themselves and stay productive during back-to-school?

While parents often put their children's needs first during the back-to-school season, it's important they also take care of themselves.

Overall, it can be a difficult time for parents as they try navigating new routines and a change of schedule from the summer.

Therefore, Hermans recommends doing things that make you happy amidst the chaos of September.

"Do something that makes you feel good or things you can't necessarily do with kids there," she said. "Get a coffee with a friend, go for a walk or take a new class. This is your time to try to fill your cup, too."

"Prioritize what is urgent and important to do now, later or in a few months, and then only focus on what needs to be done in this present moment."Jenna Hermans

There's a lot of things to get done to prepare for a new academic year, along with the overall transition from summer to fall.

As such, Hermans recommends creating a master list of items to prioritize, and then creating time blocks throughout your day to check things off.

"Prioritize what is urgent and important to do now, later or in a few months, and then only focus on what needs to be done in this present moment. Trying to do it all at once will make things way more stressful than what it needs to be," Hermans said.

An adult helping a child zip their backpack up, as two kids get ready to leave the house. (Photo via Getty Images)
Hermans suggests making a to-do list and prioritizing the most important tasks as September comes around. (Photo via Getty Images)

What is some general back-to-school advice?

While it can be a stressful time for all, Hermans' biggest takeaway for the back-to-school season is to "give yourself grace."

In her eyes, a brand new year is also a clean slate. It's an opportunity to leave negative feelings behind and to start fresh.

"Don't have expectations about the past," she said. "Get rid of what you think 'should' happen and take it one day at a time."

Additionally, Hermans wants parents to not panic if their child is taking longer to settle in to a new routine than usual.

"Every child is different, but give yourself and your kid(s) extra flexibility for about the first month of school." she said.

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