Nicole Ball 

Oh, the back-to-school rush. Often met with bittersweet feelings. The sad farewell to summer, mixed with excitement and anticipation, sprinkled with a bit of chaos.

Even with the sad goodbyes to the summer sun, most parents welcome the new school year because of the structure that is often lacking during the warm summer months. As parents welcome this new season, excitement fuels the drive that it takes to go back to the school schedule, extracurricular activities, late dinners on the go and attempts at quality family time during the weekdays.

But often this momentum dissipates, and parents are left feeling stress by the middle of October with the holidays just around the corner. So how can parents keep the momentum going after the excitement of the new school year fades away for both themselves and their children?

Get organized and stay organized. Taking the time to organize your space before the school year starts is often easy but keeping it that way is another story. Make time each week, even if only 20 minutes, to touch up on the organizational structure of your home, your car and your calendar.

Plan family time. Give yourself and the family something to look forward to. Even if it is just a night out to dinner. This gives everyone something to help push them through the week.

Set an example with your own homework. Let your kids see you sitting down and taking time to tackle your responsibilities including paying bills, answering emails or researching your next adventure. Set an example that shows that even though we must do things we don’t want to do, we are in this together.

Create a space for homework. By creating a welcoming and functional space to do homework you are offering your kids a transitional location for a specific purpose.

Keep up with the “back-to-school” routine. We often start the school year with little rituals like laying out clothes the night before, prepping lunches, getting up early to have breakfast together, and having regular homework time. But as the school year progresses we quickly lose sight of those routines and feel the stressful effects of that loss. Stick with the routines you set.

Accept what you cannot change and stop feeling guilty. Accept the fact that we can’t be everywhere at once, that the hustle and bustle of back to school will continue and that no, things will likely not calm down for a little while. This will help us to stop feeling let down or guilty when stress creeps its way back into our lives.

If we accept the stress and use it as fuel to move forward, we will continue to see results for ourselves and our children. Although the other part of that is recognizing when we are stressed, forgiving ourselves for any effects that stress has on ourselves or our families, and choosing to move forward in a positive way.

Nicole Ball is social work professor at Ferris State University, a clinical mental health therapist and owner of Mental Wellness Counseling: A Holistic Mental Health Center in Traverse City. Learn more about its services at

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