People

Routine Can Alleviate Back-To-School Stress, Says Parenting Expert

TIMEOctober 1, 2015

Getting a routine in place can help both parents and kids cope better with back-to-school stress, says parenting expert Beverly Cathcart-Ross. (Photos.com)
Getting a routine in place can help both parents and kids cope better with back-to-school stress, says parenting expert Beverly Cathcart-Ross. (Photos.com)
The start of the school year can be a time of stress not only for kids but for their parents. A heightened end-of-summer workload and all the busyness around back-to-school can make life hectic or even overwhelming for some.

“At the beginning of the school year it’s usually a little more intense because we’re all going from a very relaxing summer to getting up early and having to be on a different routine that we’ve been off for a while,” says Beverly Cathcart-Ross, a parent educator, counsellor, and mother of four teenagers.

“We’re as happy as our least happy child,” she says. “Parents have their own sets of anxieties around their children going back to school or starting school, and if they sense their child’s stressed, they may be stressed as a result of that too.”

Cathcart-Ross says common stressors include anxiety around a child’s first day at school, separation issues, whether there will be a repeat of last year’s bullying, arguments over homework, and simply getting out of the house on time in the morning.

“There’s a tremendous amount of things that parents are thinking about at this time. And maybe the most common is, ‘It will be a nightmare getting out of the house in the morning.’”

To alleviate chaos and keep things organized, what is key for both mornings and evenings is having a set routine, she says.

“Kids actually do better when they can predict and anticipate what’s happening in their day. Children of four years of age or older are capable of contributing to decision-making and helping shape a routine for themselves.”

And it’s important that the decision-making around getting that routine in place involve the child, she notes.

“If it’s collaborative then the child has a voice and a say, and they have a sense of ownership.”

In addition, parents must be sure to carve out some time for themselves in that routine.

“The evening routine is important too. The parents need time to themselves, and that’s one thing I really stress with parents is it’s important to self-respect in looking after their needs too,” she says.

“Some parents will just sacrifice their whole evening time for their children, because they don’t get to see as much of them in the day, but that’s not healthy for either the parent or the child. The child needs to know that Mom and Dad have down time too. Children need to respect that there is a cut-off time and that, ‘My parents have a right to some time to themselves.’”

Cathcart-Ross is the co-founder of The Parenting Network, as well as co-founder and chair of the Open Family Forum of Toronto, a non-profit educational service for parents, teachers, and students of psychology. She is seen regularly on TVO, Ontario’s public educational media organization, as its resident parenting expert.

She is also the certified parenting expert for LifeSpeak, a Toronto-based organization that provides live and online wellness seminars to employees of companies both large and small across North America.

At a LifeSpeak webinar called “Back to School Time” on Sept. 21, Cathcart-Ross will provide tips on how working parents can ease back into their regular work mode after a summer filled with leisurely long weekends, as well as cover parenting issues that commonly crop up.

“[Parents are] back trying to get kids to bed at night and get kids up in the morning, get them to pitch in doing chores, get them to empty their backpack when they get in the door so clean-up will happen quicker. So there are a lot issues they have year round, but at the beginning of the school year it’s usually a little more intense.”

Joan Delaney
Senior Editor, Canadian Edition
Joan Delaney is Senior Editor of the Canadian edition of The Epoch Times based in Toronto. She has been with The Epoch Times in various roles since 2004.