CLEVELAND — In just a few short days, kids across Northeast Ohio will soon be hitting the books and heading back to the classroom for the 2022 school year.
Cleveland father of four Markus Bailey is already working to help his children navigate the stress and anxiety of back-to-school shopping and waking up earlier.
His approach though comes with a little bit of heart and a whole lot of humor.
“They’re trying their best not to think about it. Me personally, they’re gonna think about it.”
Local mental health professionals say students' feelings of stress and even avoidance are normal.
Cleveland Clinic Children's Pediatric Psychologist Dr. Amy Lee says taking baby steps will curb anxiety and bring positive changes
"I often tell parents like make the stuff smaller. If you've got a kid who's looking overwhelmed, you can--you don't have to avoid it. Just take off smaller bites."
Lee says now is the time to set the alarms and prep for change.
She says creating a consistent and simple schedule with a similar routine of showering, getting ready, and eating at the same time each day paves the way for a smooth transition before the real deal.
"The idea of habit and practice is something we talk about a lot in the world of kind of behavior change, and it works," said Lee.
Lee says kids are generally resilient and thrive when there is structure.
She says shifting bedtimes up by 30-45 minutes will boost wellness and prep for the early wakeup call-especially after a relaxed summer.
In addition, she says parents should consider reducing kids' screen time.
Cut the iPad, iPhone, and gaming device usage in half.
To best prep for the long hours in the classroom--start implementing low-key, easy academic tasks.
"Let's get out some books and read or let's do a little bit of math practice--just to kind of get kids in the in mode of kind of using that part of their brain."
She says finding the positives in a new year and new beginning helps kids get through it.
A parent's or grandparents' reassurance goes a long way.
"When we as adults let our kids know, we know they can do it, they tend to kind of be able to rally their own coping skills," said Lee.
Lee says school districts are also very well equipped to handle additional concerns and first-day jitters.
There is nothing wrong with asking for a little help, and those guidance counselors and in-house professionals, she says, are used to the yearly changeover.