Ah, back to school. Right now millions of kids across the U.S. are walking, being driven by peers or parents, or riding the big yellow bus back to the hallowed halls of their schools. The U.S. Department of Education reports that this fall about 56.6 million students will attend elementary and secondary schools. That’s a lot of working parents seeing their kids off to school! While social media shows memes of gleeful parents applauding back to school time, every year this is, in fact, a stressful transition for your employees with school aged children.
The Stress of Back to School
The reality is that the transition back to school is stressful for kids and their parents. Each back-to-school season, we notice an uptick of certain topics and users’ questions related to the transition from summer to school within our caregiving solution. These user patterns mirror what The C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health at the University of Michigan found in 2017 as the top concerns for parents each school year. Our own findings and their study results indicate that today’s parents have much more complex worries than what goes in their child’s lunchbox or what their child care situation is after school. They are what we call, “modern caregiving challenges.”
Let’s take a look at the top five back to school worries that are on the minds of the working parents in your company:
Top Five Areas of Parents' Back to School Stress
Forms of Bullying
Bullying and cyberbullying are at the top of parents' list of worries when it comes to their children's health. "Adults across the country recognized bullying, including cyberbullying, as the leading health problem for U.S. children," says Gary Freed, M.D., M.P.H., a Mott professor of pediatrics and the poll's co-director. Overall, Internet safety is highly concerning for parents of with children of all ages. Cyberbullying may impact children's mental health, with anxiety, depression and even suicide being linked to this type of harassment.
Children today are over scheduled and have incredible pressures related grades, extracurriculars and social life. Our users express feelings of extreme stress themselves as they prepare for another year of challenges for their kids. At this time of year, we especially find our parent users struggling with a variety of topics related to children and stress: homework balance, early intervention, social skills, anxiety, college planning for special needs children, scheduling for different types of kids, test taking tips for children with ADHD and friendship struggles across all ages.
Daytime Schedule Execution
Utilization of tools and topics in our solution - for help managing aspects of the day for kids in different phases of life and with different challenges - skyrockets come September. Work vs school schedule, extracurriculars vs homework, video games vs life, getting out the door and getting to bed - these are all things which can throw a family into chaos on any given day. They all require different nuances and management depending on a child’s age and whether or not they have challenges such as ADHD, executive functioning limitation, Autism, etc. Parents are looking for help, tips of the trade and real solutions to help their days and their kids’ lives run more smoothly. This isn’t child care or care for severe challenges. This is just how to smoothly execute life for each family and child(ren) within.
Unfortunately, the national statistics around depression and anxiety in our children is frightening, The National Institute of Mental Health’s report that approximately 31.9% of U.S. children age 13-18 struggle with anxiety disorders. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports that as many as 2 to 3 percent of children ages 6 to 12, and 6 to 8 percent of teens may have serious depression, and an estimated 2.8 million adolescents (ages 12 to 17) in the United States had at least one major depressive episode in 2014. Furthermore, about 80 percent of kids with an anxiety disorder and 60 percent with depression are not getting treatment. Activity in our solution around depression and anxiety topics also increases at the start of school due to the stress of this transition for kids, as well as the pending year of school ahead. Our users are very concerned about signs, symptoms and what to do across a variety of nuances of both depression and anxiety.
The increased violence in school worries both children and parents. 25% of parents rank this as a top concerns related to their children’s health and school time. Kids and teens also rank this as a concern, and they read, listen to and see sources of information at their fingertips. Parents express struggling with how to talk to their children about this and are looking for guidance in this newer, more common territory.
How Can You Help
56% of employees do not share family challenges or situations with their employer. So how can you be supportive as the school year kicks off? Employers should be understanding while their employees with children adapt to their new schedules and stressors. Remind managers not to make employees feel guilty about taking time off during this period of adjustment. Send out a reminder communication to employees about any family support programs that you offer, as well as any flexible schedule structures at your company. Sometimes just acknowledging the time of year and its challenges creates a morale booster that is impactful.
We all know that stressed employees tend to be less engaged and less productive workers. So be aware of how kicking off the new school year may affect your workforce and look for ways they can help minimize the stress working parents feel during the back-to-school season.