A friend and I were poolside, our sons swimming and splashing. We should have been relaxed but instead, my friend, an elementary school teacher told me she felt anxious with the school year quickly approaching. This year, her son will go to middle school — a different building, a different schedule — and a big change in their routine.
As parents, we experience back-to-school anxiety, too. We want the school year to go smoothly. We want our kids’ school schedules to blend well with our work schedules and for our kids to thrive. As we scurry around setting up carpools, buying school supplies and stocking up on lunch-box snacks, we worry about what’s to come.
For some working parents, angst stems from new routines. It may be the first time our child will walk home alone from the bus stop or attend an aftercare program. “Routines are changing and there are a lot of decisions and that can be stressful,” says Maggie Macaulay, a parent educator and coach with Whole Hearted Parenting in Miramar.
WPLG news anchor Laurie Jennings says she’s feeling the jitters because she moved over the summer and her twin 7-year-old sons will go to a new school with a new earlier start and end time. While she now lives closer to work, she still will have to give up sleep if she wants to bring her boys to school in the mornings. And, she will have to take a vacation day if she ever wants to pick them up. She plans to rely on dad much more this year because his office is only five minutes from the boys’ school. Homework makes Jennings a little jittery, too. This school year, because of her shorter commute, she’s going to try to pop in at home a few nights a week for dinner and to supervise homework. “There’s nothing worse than coming home from work at 1 in morning and finding mistakes. It breaks your heart.”
For others parents, the jitters come from pressure to be involved in their child’s school and staying on top of assignments. They worry if they’re not involved enough, it will come at the expense of their child. But if they’re too involved it could come at the detriment of their career.
Vivian Conterio says she’s experiencing this nervousness as the start of school approaches. Her daughter, Gianna, will attend a new elementary school when the bell rings Monday morning, after moving from South Miami to Homestead over the summer. Conterio, who sat on the board of the PTA at her daughter’s previous school, wants to feel involved, but she doesn’t have as much free time this year because her work schedule as a marketing consultant has become more demanding. “The school is totally brand new to her and me. She’s nervous and I’m nervous, too. We both want to make friends and figure out ways to get involved.”
Macaulay says parents often get anxiety and guilt about volunteering. A lot of times they have an image of what an involved parent looks like and it’s not realistic, she says. “It sets them up to feel guilty.” She recommends each parent step back and consider how, where and when they are able to be involved in their children’s school in a way that’s doable.
As the first day approaches, some parents worry about balancing school routines and work schedules. Kareem Anguin, a single father and executive chef at The Oceanaire Seafood Room in Mary Brickell Village says he hired more help in the restaurant’s kitchen to allow him to be home earlier this school year. Anguin’s daughter, Andrea, will start kindergarten. They’re both excited about it. He plans to walk her into school in the morning and start his work day earlier to be able to arrive home by 7 p.m. to go over homework and put her to bed. “We’re going to try for perfect attendance,” he says. Anguin also plans to take a day off midweek to take his daughter to soccer practice and maybe ballet. “Those are two things she wants to do this year, so I’m going to sign her up for that. I want to keep her active so she’s busy, out of trouble and just as tired as me.”