Back to school can mean back to anxiety

By Ken Partridge

When I see children getting ready to head back to school, I don’t think about how easy they have it; quite the contrary. I had it way easier when I was young.

The biggest worry I had when September rolled around was whether my mom would buy me something hideous and expect me to wear it to school. Bullies could only bother me if they could catch me, and all my friends lived on the same street, or close enough, that there was always someone on the schoolground to play with.

There were no cell phones or social media. I wasn’t compelled to make every moment of my life look like I was totally together and having a great time, and cyberbullying was unheard of outside of bad science fiction. The worst I had to deal with were a few unfortunate nicknames, mostly based on the fact I was the smart kid.

Today it’s a completely different story. Any mistake or slip suddenly has the potential of following you around for your entire life, maybe even on video. Bullies can reach you even in the privacy of your own bedroom. Exclusion has gone viral and playground antics have given way to trying to establish and maintain your personal “brand.”

However, there are ways we can support our children as they prepare for another round of back to school. There are telltale signs they’re having trouble and ways to help them make the most of their school experience without making it weird.

In our cover story, Katie Ingram speaks to psychologist Brad Peters, Kati LaVigne of the Strongest Families Institute, and Leanna Closson of Saint Mary’s University about ways to spot if trouble is brewing and how to intervene to make things easier.

Columnist Starr Cunningham has some low-tech suggestions for dealing with stress and anxiety. What could be easier than getting outside, grabbing some fresh air and sunshine, and getting your hands dirty in the garden.

Complementing these back-to-school strategies is our feature story on ways to work with your child’s teachers to ensure positive academic outcomes. The explosion of social media and electronic communication gives parents overwhelming options in terms of ways to stay in contact and be involved in their child’s education. With all that, it’s reassuring to know the tried and true parent-teacher meeting remains the number one way to foster better outcomes.

And though your student may only be returning to grade school right now, it’s never too early to start saving for their post-secondary days. Sarah Sawler brings us some solid plans for how to put money aside to pay for whatever type of education or training your children will want after high school.

Perhaps my favourite article in this issue is our nutrition column from Edie Shaw-Ewald. Lunches are a real struggle in our house. Most days our son returns home with his untouched. Edie offers some ideas for lunches that will be lucky to make it to the noon bell. I’ve already got it stuck to the refrigerator.