7 Ways to Beat Back-to-School Stress

With these achievable tips, parents in recovery can celebrate back-to-school and National Recovery Month, too.

We know kids’ back-to-school stress is real. But here’s a surprise: parents are stressed, too. Sixty percent of parents are losing sleep over back-to-school worries, and 57% say it’s one of the most stressful times of the year, according to a 2019 survey. If you’re a parent in recovery, back-to-school time, with its abrupt change of routines and new schedules, can be even more challenging, says Julie Brenner, President and Chief Executive Officer at Alliance of Coalitions for Healthy Communities in Troy.

“Disruption can create stress, anxiety and uncertainty. Those in recovery often rely on routine and avoid triggers to maintain sobriety. Any change can increase stress and, in some cases, vulnerability to relapse,” Brenner says.

The good news is that you can make the school year routine work in your favor by building routines that support your recovery.

This back-to-school season, celebrate National Recovery Month — and your own recovery — with these seven tips to help keep you on track.

  1. Lean into the new routine. Drop your kids off at school, then attend a meeting or connect with your counselor or support group before heading to work. “Schedule that for yourself,” says Brenner. “Missing that self-care takes away from the consistency you need, so make sure your kids know they need to be out the door at a certain time so you can do the thing you need to do to be better.”
  2. Give your kids new responsibilities. Age-appropriate chores like making dinner, keeping the kitchen clean and doing laundry empower your kids and help them recognize their role in supporting your recovery.
  3. Be realistic. “When kids need to be in different places at the same time, and one leaves a science project on the kitchen counter, know that it’s OK to take a moment to breathe. All is not lost,” says Brenner. When you recognize everyday stress as a normal part of life, it’s easier to reach out for help because we all need it from time to time. “Realize there are people out there who care and really want to help you. Invite them in and tell them what you need. What a great example to show your kids.”
  4. Prioritize evenings together. “I encourage dinner together, eyeball-to-eyeball, no phones allowed, at least a few times a week,” Brenner suggests. “Crafts, baking together, Frisbee, bedtime rituals. Whatever you enjoy doing together, do that.”
  5. Get extra sleep. Coping is easier when your mind and body get the rest they need.
  6. Celebrate your recovery. Gather strength by recognizing the progress you have already made. Surround yourself with nonjudgmental friends and family because they are comforting and validating, says Brenner. “This is a process, so it’s important for you to celebrate your success. You matter to a lot of people,” she says.
  7. Realize you are not alone. “One in 10 people in the U.S. report they are in recovery from substance use. That’s poignant. Think about all the people you know. This is not six degrees of separation. This is friends, family and people in your community,” Brenner says.

Oakland Community Health Network is contracted by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to lead a provider service network and manages care for approximately 27,000 Oakland County citizens at more than 300 service sites across the county. People who receive public behavioral health services through OCHN’s provider network include those who have an intellectual or developmental disability, mental health concerns, or substance use disorder. Most of these individuals have Medicaid insurance coverage. 

OCHN’s goal is to ensure these individuals are aware of and have access to services and supports that will improve their health and quality of life, as well as ensure their engagement in full community participation. Its mission to “inspire hope, empower people, and strengthen communities” reflects an unyielding belief in a “Valuable System for Valued People.” Programs and supports provided by OCHN’s service network are available at oaklandchn.org.

Claire Charlton
Claire Charlton
An enthusiastic storyteller, Claire Charlton focuses on delivering top client service as a content editor for Metro Parent. In her 20+ years of experience, she has written extensively on a variety of topics and is keen on new tech and podcast hosting. Claire has two grown kids and loves to read, run, camp, cycle and travel.


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