Seeking Serenity: Chilling in the back-to-school chaos
August 10th, 2011
05:07 PM ET

Seeking Serenity: Chilling in the back-to-school chaos

Editor's note: CNN contributor Amanda Enayati ponders the theme of seeking serenity - the quest for well-being and life balance in stressful times.

It has become inevitable that each year, at some point in August, my husband will begin talking about new classes, new wardrobes, new gear and the very long list of things we need to do in preparation for the kids to go back to school.

And every year, this is all I hear him say: “Blah blah blah blah kids go back to school.”

My own early school years were spent in Iran and several Western European countries (after I fled the revolution), where back-to-school just meant you got up early one morning in the fall and went back to school.

There were no special shopping trips, play dates, orientations, parent meetings, fundraising events, committees, after-school enrichment scheduling or educational effectiveness strategy sessions that I can recall.

These days, back-to-school is science — elevated, almost, to the ranks of a “Hallmark holiday,” complete with its attendant frenzy. I would not be surprised at all, for example, if there’s a back-to-school greeting card, balloon and stuffed animal gift set for sale in a superstore somewhere. Or if someone in Manhattan is offering her pricey services as a back-to-school consultant.

So here I sit once again, staring down another school year, trying to beat back the dread of those first few weeks of chaos.

“Back to school is a time when anyone who tends towards neurosis is going to get a big boost," says Kristin Carlson, working mother of two, from Glenwood Springs, Colorado. “First of all, there’s the journey to buy back-to-school supplies, for which we always seem to be on the late end. Somehow I’m the last parent to get the memo and by the time we arrive at the store, there are exactly three loose-leaf notebooks and they’re either this burnt orange or swampy green color that neither of my kids wants. And of course my child will end up sitting next to the kid with the immaculate My Pretty Pony Trapper Keeper.”

(Mental note: Go to the store this week. Buy Pony Trapper Keeper.)

She continues: “Then there are lunches. You want the lunch to be healthy, but you want them to eat it. And you also don’t want some kid to look over and go: ‘Eeeew! What is that?!’”

(Mental note no. 2: Don’t ever pack Ghormeh Sabzi for kids’ lunches.)

“And sports. There’s the announcement for tryouts, which my friend missed one year. But then there’s also the physical, which we have to do in our town in order to participate in sports. We have a fantastic program where our medical center does free physicals for anyone going back to school. That announcement’s in the paper. We pay attention, but it’s amazing what you miss. It always ends up becoming this crazy last-minute dash. The parent nights, the fundraising, the doctor and dentist appointments, the tutoring ... " Kristin trails off.

I’m getting a sweat mustache just listening to her.

“And forget about my old nemesis, the Parent Portal!”

I ask myself: What kind of evil device is this?

“It’s a website that tells you things like if your child is in his seat on time everyday or whether she’s turned in her assignment. If your child misses anything, it will be on the Parent Portal,” she says. ”And the thing is, I don’t even know my password for the Portal. I rebel against it. But then I also feel guilty because I think I should be checking it.”

I hang up in hives and immediately reach out to Dr. Patricia Farrell, licensed psychologist and author of “It’s Not All In Your Head,” to get some advice.

“It’s important to remember that it’s normal to feel anxious,” Farrell tells me. “It becomes an issue when you are frozen by the anxiety. Parents have to look within themselves and see what is making them so stressed. They also have to be aware that there is something called ‘contagion in anxiety.’ You can become anxious simply by being around stressed-out people. Children are particularly vulnerable to contagious anxiety. If their parents are stressed, children see and feel it. They model that stress, almost take it in. They see you as the person who is going to guide, support and care for them. So if you’re not able to handle stress, how can they?”

I ask Farrell for tips to make the back-to-school transition smoother and less stressful for both parents and their children. Her suggestions include:

Establishing routines. You want children to have the best possible orientation toward school. It’s really important for children to have a routine - and that includes bedtime, because if kids do not get enough sleep, it’s going to affect their performance in school.

Begin to establish some routines a few weeks before school begins. This will ease both you and your children into the school year, rather than creating an abrupt and possibly stressful start.

Organizing activities and materials. Anxiety becomes compounded by a lack of organization. Create a schedule for both school-related and after-school activities. Also, work with your children to organize the place where they will keep their books and materials. But avoid overscheduling and endless to-do lists: relaxing and playing are just as important to your child’s development as active learning.

Communicating with your child. Allow your child to talk about how he or she feels about going back to school. Avoid hovering or being overprotective. Instead, ask her what she’s looking forward to and whether she has any concerns. Once you find out what the concerns might be, you can begin to address them.

If your child seems particularly nervous or frightened and the issues appear to be more than you can handle, don’t feel like you have to be the expert. Look for resources in your community or even get a referral and go for a few sessions with a specialist.

And what about parents?

Taking some deep breaths. “Everyone has to learn a little bit of self-help. It’s not bad for both parents and children to learn some breathing relaxation techniques,” suggests Farrell.

Breathing relaxation is very comforting. It has a calming effect, and there is a physical reaction to it.  It has to do with carbon dioxide levels in your blood. It’s a powerful way of relieving tension and bringing about a sense of well-being. And though you might need quiet time for meditation, you can do breathing exercises anytime and anywhere. (You can find scores of breathing relaxation exercises, including Farrell’s, on YouTube.)

And most important, perhaps, is the willingness to accept that there is no such thing as perfection. But what may come close is the blur of the sweet memories of childhood summers and school years melting into one another.

soundoff (833 Responses)
  1. top erection pills

    erectile winstrol https://canadaerectiledysfunctionpills.com/ erectile after prostate surgery

    April 28, 2021 at 05:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. 바둑이사이트

    Aw, this was an incredibly nice post. Taking a few minutes and actual effort to create a top notch articleÖ but what can I sayÖ I put things off a whole lot and never seem to get anything done.


    April 28, 2021 at 08:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. pressure washers

    Your manner of addressin this subject is both fantastic as well as motivating.


    April 28, 2021 at 13:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Alphard

    I adore the way you have concluded this post ...


    April 28, 2021 at 13:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. 바둑이

    Hi there! I just want to give you a big thumbs up for the great info you have got here on this post. I'll be coming back to your site for more soon.


    April 28, 2021 at 16:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. dapoxetine

    priligy price buy avanafil

    April 28, 2021 at 18:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. 사설바둑이

    Everything is very open with a precise explanation of the challenges. It was definitely informative. Your site is extremely helpful. Thanks for sharing!


    April 28, 2021 at 22:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. ed meds

    erectile jelly https://canadaerectiledysfunctionpills.com/ erectile exercises

    April 29, 2021 at 04:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. viagra canada

    what is the price of generic viagra in canada https://canadaviagrastore.com/ generic drug for viagra in canada

    April 29, 2021 at 05:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. backlinks

    Hello there I am so thrilled I found your site, I really found you by accident, while I was searching on Yahoo for something else, Regardless I am here now and would just like to say thanks a lot for a marvelous post and a all round interesting blog (I also love the theme/design), I don’t have time to read through it all at the moment but I have bookmarked it and also added in your RSS feeds, so when I have time I will be back to read a great deal more, Please do keep up the superb job.


    April 29, 2021 at 05:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. erectile dysfunction treatment

    erectile tissue in nose https://canadaerectiledysfunctionpills.com/ erectile health news

    April 29, 2021 at 10:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. 바둑이사이트

    Hey there! I simply want to give you a huge thumbs up for your excellent information you've got right here on this post. I am returning to your blog for more soon.


    April 29, 2021 at 11:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. telescopicladders

    Exactly the type of web content that enriches the web. Many thanks!


    April 29, 2021 at 12:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. 사설바둑이

    Great information. Lucky me I discovered your website by chance (stumbleupon). I have book marked it for later!


    April 29, 2021 at 13:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. 바둑이게임

    I need to to thank you for this excellent read!! I certainly loved every bit of it. I have got you bookmarked to look at new things you postÖ


    April 29, 2021 at 14:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. website

    You have actually covered this topic properly.


    April 29, 2021 at 15:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. avana

    avana 200 mg avanafil pill

    April 29, 2021 at 17:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. 온라인바둑이

    Way cool! Some very valid points! I appreciate you penning this post plus the rest of the site is extremely good.


    April 29, 2021 at 19:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. 바둑이게임

    A motivating discussion is worth comment. I do believe that you need to write more about this topic, it might not be a taboo matter but usually people do not talk about these issues. To the next! Cheers!!


    April 29, 2021 at 19:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. 바둑이사이트

    Pretty! This was an extremely wonderful post. Thank you for supplying these details.


    April 29, 2021 at 19:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. 바둑이

    Everyone loves it whenever people come together and share thoughts. Great site, keep it up!


    April 30, 2021 at 05:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. avanafil

    avana 200 mg buy avanafil online

    April 30, 2021 at 13:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. 8 BALL POOL Hack 2021

    Today we are proud to say that we've finally produced the best game hack that will help you to acquire indefinite resources at absolutely no cost. Our hack is definitely the best solution for you and we are pretty convinced in that!


    April 30, 2021 at 17:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. 바둑이게임

    I used to be able to find good info from your articles.


    April 30, 2021 at 18:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. 사설바둑이

    Saved as a favorite, I love your blog!


    April 30, 2021 at 19:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. AFK Arena Hack 2021

    Our game hack online is designed to obtain free limitless resources in a quick and easy way by following a couple of easy-to-follow steps. The procedure for receiving free infinite resources is actually quite straightforward but only if you follow our simple steps of using our game hack online.


    April 30, 2021 at 20:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. insulin cooler box india price

    Main Features


    April 30, 2021 at 21:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Roblox Cheat

    Our game hack tool is created to obtain free unlimited resources in a simple and effortless approach by following a couple of simple steps. The procedure for getting free endless resources is actually pretty straightforward but only if you follow our simple steps of utilizing our game hack online.


    May 1, 2021 at 03:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. 사설바둑이

    May I simply just say what a comfort to find someone who really knows what they're discussing on the web. You certainly understand how to bring a problem to light and make it important. More people should look at this and understand this side of the story. I was surprised that you are not more popular since you certainly possess the gift.


    May 1, 2021 at 04:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. 먹튀검증

    I could not refrain from commenting. Well written!


    May 1, 2021 at 12:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. 먹튀검증

    This web site certainly has all of the information and facts I needed concerning this subject and didnít know who to ask.


    May 1, 2021 at 13:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. best canadian mail order pharmacies for diet pills

    canadian pills pharmacy https://canadapillstorex.com/ canadian customs pills vitamins

    May 1, 2021 at 15:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. 먹튀검증업체

    This website was... how do I say it? Relevant!! Finally I've found something that helped me. Many thanks!


    May 1, 2021 at 16:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. best canadian mail order pharmacies for diet pills

    canadian generic pills https://canadapillstorex.com/ best canadian mail order pharmacies for diet pills

    May 1, 2021 at 20:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. 먹튀사이트

    Everything is very open with a really clear description of the issues. It was definitely informative. Your website is useful. Thanks for sharing!


    May 1, 2021 at 20:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. 먹튀검증

    Itís hard to come by well-informed people on this subject, however, you sound like you know what youíre talking about! Thanks


    May 2, 2021 at 12:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. 먹튀검증

    Hi there! This post could not be written much better! Looking at this article reminds me of my previous roommate! He always kept talking about this. I'll send this information to him. Fairly certain he will have a very good read. Thanks for sharing!


    May 2, 2021 at 14:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. 먹튀검증

    This website really has all the info I needed about this subject and didnít know who to ask.


    May 2, 2021 at 19:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. 먹튀사이트

    Having read this I believed it was rather informative. I appreciate you finding the time and energy to put this short article together. I once again find myself personally spending a lot of time both reading and posting comments. But so what, it was still worth it!


    May 2, 2021 at 21:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. 먹튀검증

    Excellent post! We are linking to this great article on our site. Keep up the good writing.


    May 3, 2021 at 05:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. 먹튀사이트

    Your style is unique compared to other people I've read stuff from. Many thanks for posting when you've got the opportunity, Guess I'll just book mark this blog.


    May 3, 2021 at 07:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. 먹튀검증

    Everything is very open with a really clear description of the issues. It was truly informative. Your site is useful. Thanks for sharing!


    May 3, 2021 at 12:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. 먹튀검증

    I love it when folks get together and share thoughts. Great blog, stick with it!


    May 3, 2021 at 19:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. avana

    avanafil vs cialis buy avanafil

    May 3, 2021 at 23:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. 먹튀검증

    Aw, this was an extremely nice post. Spending some time and actual effort to make a really good articleÖ but what can I sayÖ I procrastinate a whole lot and don't seem to get nearly anything done.


    May 4, 2021 at 02:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. 먹튀사이트

    You are so awesome! I do not believe I have read anything like this before. So great to find someone with some unique thoughts on this subject matter. Really.. thanks for starting this up. This website is something that's needed on the web, someone with a little originality!


    May 4, 2021 at 03:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. 먹튀사이트

    Great information. Lucky me I found your site by chance (stumbleupon). I've saved as a favorite for later!


    May 4, 2021 at 04:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. 출장마사지

    Itís hard to come by knowledgeable people about this topic, however, you seem like you know what youíre talking about! Thanks


    May 4, 2021 at 13:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. cloroquine protein

    cholorquine https://chloroquineorigin.com/ chloroquine moa

    May 4, 2021 at 13:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. 출장안마

    Pretty! This was an incredibly wonderful article. Many thanks for providing these details.


    May 4, 2021 at 14:38 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17

Post a comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.