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Release Date: 8/21/2014

Dealing with the emotional toll of back-to-school

Dr. Anita Schnapp, obstetrician/gynecologist

Dr. Anita Schnapp, obstetrician/gynecologist

by Dr. Anita Schnapp, St. Anthony’s

The kids are back in school, and whether that means your oldest child is starting kindergarten, your youngest child is heading off to college, or anything in between, the transition can be very emotional for us mothers.

You may be nervous, depressed or, depending on how your child’s behavior was over the summer, excited to see them hop on the bus and get back to class. First and foremost, remember, no matter how you feel about sending your kids to school – it’s okay. What matters is how you handle it.

A lot of mothers will want to cry when it’s time for school to start. I have always tried to remember the advice a friend gave me: we can look at the start of school as a time to be sad or we can look at it as a sign that we’re doing a great job as parents by having our children ready to start stepping out into the world without us. School is an important time for socialization and learning independence.

If you do feel the need to cry, try not to share it with your younger children. They’re watching you and will pick up on your nervousness and be nervous themselves about school. Instead, show them a positive attitude because that will help give them a better start at school.

Maybe the sight of the school bus makes you want to dance. There is nothing wrong with that. School is a wonderful opportunity for your child to grow as a person. But you might want to hold off on the actual dancing until the bus is out of sight since that celebration in front of your child might make her feel unwanted.

Sending your children to the neighborhood school for part of the day is one thing, sending your baby to college hours away is another story. You’re worried whether your child can handle the new responsibilities of living on her own. You think you won’t hear from her very often, and you might not. But the long gaps in phone calls are actually a good sign. That means she’s comfortable and confident with her new independence; give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done. On the flip side, if you’re hearing from your college student very frequently, take the time to ask how she’s doing. She made need some support as she works on the transition.

You may also be worried about empty nest syndrome. You could let that get you down, but why not look at it as an opportunity? The empty nest gives you more freedom to work on that wish list you’ve put off while raising your children. Travel, start a new hobby, put more time into existing projects, go back to school yourself or put more focus on your marriage. I’ve had numerous patients tell me the empty nest started a second honeymoon that they’ve thoroughly enjoyed.

So how will I feel when I’m taking my kids to school tomorrow? I’ll let you know when I find out how cooperative they are in the morning.

Dr. Anita Schnapp is a St. Anthony’s obstetrician/gynecologist.

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