By Nikki Eining CSW-PIP QMHP
Prairie Doc Perspectives 

"Here we go, back to school"


August 17, 2023

Here it is, August. Summer has flown by and already there is Halloween candy roaming the shelves of Walmart. For most of us, August also brings the normal adjustment of transitioning back to the school year. It is normal for this to look differently for everyone, especially depending upon the age of your child. You may find yourself stressing to find the school supplies list, supporting your youth through two a day practices for athletic season or looking forward to getting back to the routine of the school year.

Adjustment is a term utilized often in the behavioral health world. Adjustment is “the process of adapting or becoming used to a new situation or stressor.” It is a change in our life. This possibly could be a change in the way we are doing something, our relationships, our employment, our family, our environment or possibly our routine. It is normal that with change comes stress. Stress can be positive stress, or it can be very uncomfortable. When adjustment, or change, is out of our control and creates this uncomfortable stress, it is important for us to explore and focus on “what is within my control.”

This is where we can explore what is within our control as we adjust back to the school year. Here are some tips on things to think through that can be within your control:

- Sit with your family and work together to develop a daily, predictable family routine. Explore bedtime routines and timeframes. Consistent rest helps us manage stress. Children being a part of creation of the routine also engages them more in the routine and they will be more likely to follow through.

- Communicate or reach out to parents or school staff within similar schools or classes. Gathering more factual information can aid in our management of stress and anxiety.

- Attend open houses, visit the school area and aid in walking through with your child what to expect as the new school year begins. Pre-teaching and familiarizing ourselves with environments sets us up for transition success.

- Identify a separation tradition with your child – maybe this is a hug, a kiss and a special line between you and them, maybe it is a special high five you created together or a special short song. Consistent, brief and positive separation traditions can be a great way to make this predictable and successful for your child.

- Schedule small fun activities with your child during this transition. This gives children something to look forward to, allows them to know ‘summer fun is not 100% over,’ and also builds attachment time in your schedule with caregivers during a transition of the school day away from caregiver.

As always, everyone’s experience is different. Normalizing the stress around change is important. Our nervous system likes predictability. Therefore, when we change things, our body can be on alert. By focusing on healthy things within our control, we can manage through this normal stress associated with adjustment.

With any adjustment in our lives, if stress symptoms continue after a month of change communicate with your primary care provider or local behavioral health care provider to explore how to support you or family members through this.

Nikki Eining CSW-PIP, QMHP Outpatient Clinical Mental Health Therapist Avera Medical Group Behavioral Health Brookings Clinic in Brookings, SD. Follow The Prairie Doc® at and on Facebook featuring On Call with the Prairie Doc® a medical Q&A show based on science, built on trust for 21 seasons, streaming live on Facebook most Thursdays at 7 p.m. central.  


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