Inch Deep, Mile Wide: Back-to-School Blues, Parent Edition

Maybe you’ve seen the commercial where a parent glides gleefully around an office supply store purchasing back-to-school supplies to a jaunty tune, and you’ve had to stifle a giggle. Maybe you’ve been so frustrated by the phrases “I’m bored” and “There’s nothing to do” that you’ve momentarily fantasized about a year-round curriculum. Or, maybe, once or twice you’ve thought

 *  is so much easier when can I do it by myself.
[*shopping, cleaning, cooking, eating, sleeping, thinking, etc. I’m sure we all have our own.]

I am guilty of all of these, and yet…I’m kind of in a slump right now because I actually miss my “cheeky monkeys”, whom I so cruelly sent back to school recently. Yes, there were times this summer when I thought, “Hurry up, school,” but, overall, I miss their hilarity, company, and ability to inject fun into almost anything (e.g., one dull, laundry-filled day became the great sock-ball/underwear sling-shot war of 2013).

But is it normal for me to feel this way? Are parents prone to the back-to-school blues or is it just supposed to be the kids? Well, according to the American Psychological Association, the blues around this time of year are felt by both parents and children. They suggest some tips to help your kids adjust and, in the process, give you some peace of mind:

  1.  Develop a school-day routine with your child and practice it.
  2.  Help your child get to know your neighbors and  your neighborhood.
  3.  Talk to your child, asking lots of questions.
  4.  Empathize with your child; letting him/her know  that your fears and excitement mirror his/hers can  help you both.
  5.  Get involved and ask for help; this will foster support  for both you and your child.

This advice is geared mainly to help the children, but what of parents’ anxiety? Barbara Korsch, M.D., an attending pediatrician at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles and a professor of pediatrics at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California, says that parents have biological needs, as well as emotional ones to take care of kids. “We are the most protective species on earth when it comes to the guidance and care of children. Parent’s concerns as to how a child will act, or react, on his own can be very upsetting.” So it is perfectly natural for parents to get the blues when sending their kiddos back to school.

We’ll miss you summer fun!

Dr. Korsch says that studies have indicated that the return school can be almost as harried and disconcerting for parents, especially those who are sending their kids to school for the first time. “Parents often suffer from anxiety and a sense of loss,” Dr. Korsch said. “It is especially difficult for those who are used to having their child at home with them most of the time, and have had little need for previous separation.”

But, Dr. Korsch reminds, “The reality is that it’s healthy for a child to learn to be independent.” So, don’t be a helicopter parent because it is not good for you or your child. However, it might be helpful to share a story of someone else dealing with similar emotions, such as in Winging It by Catherine Goldhammer. You might even try preparing for the way you’ll feel at being separated from your child. Even if he/she isn’t quite to the college-bound age yet, you may find some tips in Emptying the Nest by Brad Sachs. But mainly try to think the best of your child’s abilities to cope and concentrate on making his/her school experience the best it can be, and you may even want to focus on other things in your life that you’ve not had enough time to concentrate on (I can’t be the only one with some serious closet reorganizing to do). If all else fails, you can come to the library and find a good book to read while you wait for the school bus.

After serving 2+ years helping to launch, coordinate, and edit the Well & Wise blog, Joanne Sobieck-Lingg is happy turn those duties over to Jessica (JP) Protasio and just blog about her many, disparate interests (though expert in none, except maybe parenthetical asides). In past lives, she was a writer, proofreader, editor, project manager, and teacher, but she has been happily ensconced among the fiction and teen books at the Central Branch of HCLS since 2003.