The iconic Staples commercial, where the father is jumping for joy in the aisles while taking his children back-to-school shopping, depicts the annual event as the most wonderful time of the year. But is it?
Certainly there are some families who look forward to getting back to the structured days once the school year begins. But for many working parents, back to school brings a whole other host of challenges.
“Back-to-school time can be one of the most stressful points of the entire year for working parents,” says Emily Seamone of Women, Work, and Life, a career counselor and work life specialist. “In general, human beings tend to not embrace change, and back-to-school brings about a major transition in life for both children and parents.”
From bus schedules and after-school activities that don’t mesh with work schedules to finding after-school care and the challenges of sick days, the back-to-school stressors can really add up. Here’s a look at the top 10 back to school challenges working families face.
- Anxious Children
The anxious child who is crying every morning for two weeks at school drop-off, involving a stressful and prolonged process of getting to school (and thus coming in to work late) can take its toll on any parent. For a working parent, worrying about your child’s back-to-school anxieties can impact their work day, not only with the situation making them late for work, but the worrying about how they are doing throughout the day.
How to Cure That Back-to-School Anxiety
- Morning Madness
Morning commutes are bad enough as-is, but when you add the tall order of getting kids up, dressed and out the door to the bus or drop-off line, ratchets the morning madness up a few levels. Coordinating coverage to get the kids ready for school and to the bus stop without being late for work is a challenge for many families -- and that’s not even getting into to the stress of getting stuck behind a school bus on the ride to the office.
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- Shopping and Forms and Checks, Oh My!
Heading back to school means more than just buying school supplies. You’re also handling children’s numerous back-to-school needs, like last-minute school supply shopping, “urgent” emails from the local parent teacher organization and other requests that need to be sent in before school starts.“The beginning of school year launches an onslaught of errands for the kids and the schools,” says Seamone. “It seems to make parents' lives a bit more harried, which spills over into work.”
101 Back-to-School Tips for Kids and Parents
- Getting Back into the Routine
From getting up on time, ready for school and out the door with the necessary items for the school day, to getting back into the routine of nightly homework, getting to after school activities (and jobs for older kids) and heading to bed at a reasonable hour, it can take weeks, or even months, for families to readjust to the schoolyear routine. “Summer seems to relax all structure, and thus children often have a hard time getting back into a routine,” Seamone says. “This results in whining, bad moods, and challenging conversations for parents. Again, more stress!”
The Best Apps and Tech Tools for Kids and Parents Going Back-to-School
- After School Activity Schedules
School sports and other activities are great for kids, but 3:30 games and tutoring or piano 4:15 can be tough for parents working parents, especially when these activities happen before they get home from work. For many parents, this means leaving work early or missing games (hello, mom guilt) and coordinating transportation to and from activities to ensure your kids don’t miss out just because you’re working.
Get Tips on Creating Your After-School Activities Plan
- Staying Healthy
Back to school also means back to the challenge of ensuring your kids have lunches and snacks that are A) healthy and B) something they’ll actually eat. And then there’s the petri dish of germs that is classrooms and playgrounds. When the school calls to report that Johnny has a fever and needs to be picked up, that’s another adjustment working parents have to be prepared to make.
Find Simple Stress Management Tips for Work and Home
- Lining Up Childcare
Whether it’s an extra set of hands to help before school starts or after school care you need, lining up a sitter before school is back in session is key. After-school sitters cost families an average of just under $200 per week, according to Care.com's latest Cost of Care report.
7 Tips for Hiring After-School Care
- Keeping It All Together
Maybe the biggest of all back-to-school stressors is getting everything organized. Keeping track of who goes where when and what they need means juggling massive amounts of details; if you don’t have a system (or systems) in place, this can easily lead to information overload -- and things falling through the cracks. Without sound systems and organization, forgotten science projects and misplaced permission slips can be disruptive for children and working parent alike.
5 Back-to-School Organizing Challenges -- and Solutions
- Gap Week Coverage
Just like some working parents encountered when school ended, the gap week is often an issue between when camps and summer programs end and start of the school year. Finding coverage, while maintaining your sanity and work schedule can certainly be a challenge.
Learn More About Care.com Workplace Solutions
- Educational Involvement and Development
Working full time, while making sure you don’t miss important school meetings, open houses and updates on your child’s education can definitely be a stress point for working parents. Then there’s the issue of ensuring homework is done. Maybe it’s something parents handle after work, or perhaps it’s the afternoon caregiver’s responsibility. Either way it’s another daily stress point that’s critical to your child’s educational development. Additionally, the pressure of staying on top of how your child is doing educationally, while managing a busy work schedule, while difficult, is important to ensure your child is on track and doing well in his or her studies.
Download our free Care.com webinar to study up on best-in-class back-to-school tips, tricks and strategies for tackling some of the biggest challenges working families face this time of year.