For the kids, it's not the most wonderful time of the year.

Posted Sep 06, 2019

When you’re a kid, and the summer vacation is ending, the last thing you want to see are TV ads of parents shopping for back-to-school supplies to the merry tune of “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.”

For many kids, the idea of going back to school conjures up the image of entering a maximum-security prison only to be let out each afternoon with homework to do until the sun rises. Not to mention having adults always telling you what to do or having snotty classmates who have nothing special going for them except for being cute and always ready, willing, and able to make you feel less than. Even if you are a good student, the social pressures can make the thought and process of going back to school pretty depressing and scary.

This is especially true for teenagers, who are likely to be more sensitive to social pressures than when they were as younger kids or will be as adults. They are likely to feel judged by every kid in the school. It’s only natural for them to feel some sadness and fear as vacation ends. Going back to the school routine and starting over in new classrooms with new people can be anxiety-provoking. The transition alone can push kids to have to rewire and reevaluate. It is nerve-wracking, so if you have children, please build up their self-esteem by providing support.

Some parents look forward to their kids going back to school. I remember hearing my mother tell a friend, “Oh, I get so much more done when the kids are in school.” It made me feel different from how I felt on family trips, when it seemed like they were enjoying hanging out with us. So, if you are a parent and are looking forward to the end of summer vacation, please be sensitive about what you say aloud.

Sometimes, though , back-to-school related anxiety and depression can hit parents hard too. You may feel some separation anxiety if your kids are young and they are heading off to school for the first time. Particularly these days, with the horror of all these school shootings, the thought of letting your children out of the house can make you want to wrap them in Kevlar. As a matter of fact, one of the hottest items in the back-to-school market right now is bulletproof backpacks.

It makes you step back and gasp, “What the hell has happened to our world?” In my day it was “duck and cover.” Now it’s “active shooter training”— or little kids! I guess I should be grateful that all I grew up worrying about was nuclear attacks. The stress on families and on children, being reminded on a daily basis that they are not safe, is yet another reason to be uncomfortable at the start of this school year.

Be aware that your kids will pick up on your worry and depression, and if you express your fears to them, they will feel it themselves. This can throw them off even more than usual as they make their annual reentry into matriculation. It’s your job to model the behavior and demonstrate that they need to keep anxiety and sadness at bay while taking in as much knowledge as they can and having a little fun in the process.

It’s a lot to absorb. The changes in how we live are difficult to swallow. But we will go on, and kids will continue to resist going back to school because that is what kids are supposed to do.