Fall is upon us and school is back in session which can mean increased anxiety in children and ourselves. We have all felt this stress before. We are enjoying our weekend with our family and then all of a sudden it is Sunday and the anxiety of the approaching week starts to set in. In our house we affectionately refer to those feelings as the Sunday “scaries”. We may begin to feel stressed about what work or chores around the house we may not have completed. Maybe we have put off errands that needed to be run like grocery shopping or needing to buy new soccer cleats. Children can experience the same anxiety on Sundays if they have not completed their homework or are overly tired. Often, children will feel fine all weekend, and then Sunday night comes and they are complaining about having a stomach ache or a headache and they express they do not want to go to school the next day. There are ways to turn Sundays into more fun days and have it be a day that families can all enjoy together. Here are some suggestions on how to help reduce Sunday anxiety in children and ourselves:
Organize, organize, organize: It can be helpful to have school items organized and ready for Monday. This can be done anytime during the weekend but preferably not late in the afternoon or evening on Sundays. This could include having your child pick out their outfit and have it laid out ready for the day. For some children it is beneficial to go ahead and have them choose their outfits for the entire week. There can be a special hanger for each day of the week in their closet where they have everything picked out in advance to make mornings easier and smoother before school. This could also include making sure their lunch is packed and in the refrigerator for the next day and making sure all school papers are signed and in their folder or back pack. Planning ahead is a key component in ensuring a smooth Sunday “fun day”!
Do homework on Friday: It can be difficult for your child to come home on a Friday and have the motivation to sit down to complete their homework especially as they get older and start having weekend plans with friends. It may not be fun, but once their homework is done then they can truly enjoy their weekend and not feel stressed or anxious about procrastinating on their school work. Another good time to do homework could be Saturday morning before any activities begin. For teenagers it is likely that they will have tests on Mondays sometimes and in those situations the only schoolwork they should be doing on Sunday is studying. Maybe they are rereading a chapter or reviewing note cards but ideally they would have already put in some studying time and this is just a review to refresh their memory of the material the night before the test.
Make plans for “downtime”: Sometimes weekends can go by in the blink of an eye. Weekends can include birthday parties for classmates, sports games, running errands, doing fun activities with family and friends, etc. Before we know it our weekends are completely packed and filled with events and activities and there is not much time for any relaxation or “downtime”. Lack of sleep can lead to increased frustration and stress and can exacerbate the feelings of the Sunday “scaries”. It can be hard to prioritize when we feel like we are obligated to attend different activities but resting is very important to helping us feel balanced on our weekends and it is essential for children to have this feeling of rest as well.
Talk about anxious feelings: It is important to have discussions with your children about how they are feeling especially when they are experiencing negative feelings. When your child expresses frustration or stress or feeling anxious about the school week is it crucial to validate their feelings and listen to them. When children’s feelings are validated they feel heard and understood. With anxiety there can be physical symptoms such as headaches and stomach aches but having open discussions with your children about how they are feeling may help reduce some of their physical symptoms. If their anxiety is severe and is interfering with their ability to go to school and get ready in the morning it may be time to talk to their school counselor or consider having them see a therapist to help them with coping skills for their anxious feelings.
Limit technology time: A lot of children would choose playing on their technology as a way to unwind and have “downtime”. Playing games on their devices can provide temporary stress relief but can also be a way to escape and avoid things they are supposed to be doing such as chores, school work, or socializing in person with peers or family members. It is important to have time limits for their technology so that they can truly relax and connect with the rest of the family. This should apply to parents as well to make sure that we are not losing our day to being too attached to our phones and not present enough with our family.
Our children are always watching us even when we think they aren’t. Modeling the suggestions given for a less stressful Sunday can be very beneficial for our children. It is helpful for them to see us practicing what we are asking them to do. This includes getting chores and errands done earlier in the weekend, not spending too much time on our technology, being organized, not over-scheduling ourselves, and being available to have open discussions about our feelings with our family. Sundays should be about spending time with our families whether that means having a relaxing day together around the house, planning a fun activity for everyone, and most importantly being prepared for the week so that we can truly enjoy this day together to reflect and prepare for the week. We can turn the Sunday “scaries” into Sunday “fun day” instead and help our children and family feel less anxious about the week.