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Back-to-School Stress and Anxiety - for Parents

Katie Bugbee
Sept. 2, 2015

With new schedules and plans falling through, a Care.com survey reveals school season brings stress, worry and anxiety to many parents.

No matter how much parents plan for the beginning of back-to-school season, half of them say it doesn't go as smoothly as they planned. In fact, a 2015 Care.com survey reveals that 55% say the back-to-school season is stressful. And 30% feel anxious about it.

Why? The early and rigid schedules, shopping for necessities, juggling grownup work with kids' (school) work, finding after-school care and dealing with plans falling through. It's a lot to handle. And 51% of parents say that the school season interferes with their work in some way.

If you're a parent, this probably doesnt surprise you. But there are still ways to make it easier on yourself. Below, we break down the top parent pain points and assign some homework. An assignment with a greater purpose: to make your school stress and worry disappear.


Problem: Finding after-school care. 31% of parents feel finding a new caregiver is the most stressful part about school season. Finding someone who fits your family and your schedule can feel like shopping for prime real estate in a sellers market. 
Solution: Act fast. Create an after-school job post and once a great candidate applies, call her. Do a video interview and if you like her, ask her to meet that very day. Do this with a few candidates and meet people for coffee throughout your day (yes, it will be an insane week, but you will likely have someone by the end). If you like someone, be upfront and let her know you'd like to move forward with references, an interview with the kids and a background check. Make plans to do all of these things within the next 72 hours with 2-3 candidates and choose the best one. Send a nanny contract and a start date to seal the deal. The most stressful part about this process is when people you love get scooped up by another family. Acting fast will prevent this.


Problem: Care plans falling through. At least once a month or more, 1 in 5 parents (20%) say child care plans fall through causing 60% of them to go to work late or early, 41% to call in sick and 19% to hire back-up child care.
Solution: Ask your employer for a subsidized back-up care benefit. Yes, this does exist! Care.com actually is a workplace benefit at many companies who are trying to ease the care-related stress of their employees (helps a lot with senior care issues as well). This means that if you have a change in care plans (child is home sick, nanny takes a vacation) you can have a fully-vetted professional nanny at your door to help (and its often subsidized by the company). Even if you want to work from home while shes there, you're getting more done and not calling in sick! (Check out the workplace benefit)


Problem: Partner doesn't split responsibilities. 48% of parents feel an imbalanced divide at home.
Solution:  Create a plan around your schedules and strengths. Be open with your partner about what you both need and how you can fairly split duties. True, many moms shoulder the child care tasks, but 65% of dads said they feel the work should be a 50/50 split. So now is your chance to make it that way! List out the responsibilities and figure out what fits your respective schedules. Ex: One parent could be in charge of meals and care-coordination and the other does homework, school forms and morning prep (70% of parents minimize stress by getting everything together the night before).


Problem: Boss is not supportive. 44% of working parents say they worry their boss and colleagues will think theyre not committed to their job when their work schedule is affected due to a parental responsibility.
Solution: Be upfront. From the get-go, tell your boss that your child is a priority. Assure him or her that your work and dedication will not lessen but that you might need some flexibility when school is in session (see workplace benefit above). Never devalue the importance of work-life balance.


Problem: Worried about bullying. 20% of parents worry about their child being bullied in school and 1 in 5 parents don't feel confident that they know the signs to look out for if their child is having trouble adjusting in school.
Solution: Know the signs and be aware. If your child is reluctant to go to school, shows signs of physical distress, or clams up when you try to try to discuss school -- bullying may be the culprit. Talk to your child when he's the chattiest (bedtime?). And above all, teach kindness. Get more tips on bullying  and see what Care.com members suggest.


Problem: Concerns about grades. 25% are worried about their child's teacher and 46% of parents would pay their child for good grades.
Solution:  Be involved and ask for help. Support the teacher and the school by being involved in the classroom if you have three hours a week -- or just three hours a year. Stay on top of homework and if your child starts struggling offer help and talk to the teacher. It might mean you have to step aside and find a homework helper or hire a tutor. Rewards your kids will value are okay, but don't hand out straight cash for As.


Problem: School interferes with work. 51% of working parents say the back-to-school season interferes with their work, with 43% of parents say they have to go to work late and leave work early as a result. In fact, 44% of working parents say they feel distracted at work during the back-to-school season.
Solution: Better organization. You'll hear over and over again that being organized can help any day run more quickly and more smoothly. Focus on preparation and emphasizing routine for your kids. From organizing your fridge to making family calendars, you'd be surprised at how quickly you can get out the door and to work. Check out the best organization tips for back-to-school.

More interesting facts from the Back to School Survey:

  • 21% of after-school job posts mention help with homework. This percentage increases as kids get older, with 45% of after-school job posts for kids 12 years and older mentioning homework.
  • 38% of after-school job posts mention help with meal preparations.
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