08/28/2013 01:17 pm ET Updated Oct 28, 2013

Back-to-School Blues: A Family Affair

By Jennifer Powell-Lunder, Psy.D. for

It is hard to believe the summer is passing or, for some, has passed by so quickly. Few things surpass the initial excitement of going back to school. The backpacks are, or will soon be, packed; the notebooks are organized; and pencils are sharpened to a fine tip as if anxiously anticipating their first use. The first couple of days back to school always seem to breeze by without a wrinkle. Just as the school year routine seems to be getting under way, however, it is not uncommon for both kids and parents to feel a change in mood; a let-down after that initial beginning of the school year energy boost.

While for most folks, the summer symbolizes rest and relaxation, back to school time can serve as a jolt back the reality of routine life. As the first school weeks pass, it is not uncommon to feel as if the outside world is gaining momentum, spinning fasting and with more force. School season represents commitment and activity, often-increased stress because there never seems to be enough time.

Parents and kids may experience the back-to-school blues for different reasons although, there are more similarities than one might think.


  • Back to routine
  • Miss summer friends
  • Frustrated with homework
  • Pressure of balancing school, work, and after-school commitments (activities, sports, etc.)
  • Miss having time to relax
  • Regrets about what did not get to do over the summer (special activities)


  • Back to routine
  • Miss having kids at home
  • Restart of homework struggles with kids
  • Pressure of getting kids where they need to be before and after school
  • Miss having time to relax
  • Regrets about what didn't get done over the summer (special tasks)

In order to successfully push through this common set of blahs, it is important to acknowledge that they exist. This can be especially challenging if you and your kids are feeling down. How can you tell if you and/or your kids are experiencing the blues? Here is a list of some common signs:

  • Feeling irritable or annoyed
  • Feeling sad and/or sensitive
  • Feeling tired
  • Eating more or less than usual
  • Sleeping more or less than usual
  • Disinterested in activities that you typically enjoy
  • Isolating from others

If you and your kids can relate to at least a few of these symptoms, you may have a bout of the blues. It is important to note that the back-to-school blues are directly associated with the start of school and usually resolve a week or two after the start of school. (If you or your child has been experiencing these symptoms for a while or you fear it may be depression, it is recommended that you talk to a professional counselor.)

So, how can you beat the blues?

  • Acknowledge your feelings. Check in with your child. Encourage her to talk about how she is feeling.
  • Highlight upcoming events. If, for example fall means a family apple picking outing, pick the date. Discuss all the exciting upcoming events and holidays.
  • Create a calendar. When in doubt, plan it out. If you are feeling overwhelmed by everything you have to do, it is helpful to keep track of everything on a family calendar. Be sure to post it in a common place, such as the kitchen. This way, each family member is aware of what they need to do each day.
  • Schedule down time. Even the busiest person needs some time to destress. Encourage activities that promote relaxation.
  • Discourage isolation. Family dinners are a great way to get the whole family together. Take the time to talk about the upcoming school year. Validate your child's feelings and encourage discussion about the things to which he has to look forward this school year.

While the lazy days of summer may be at an end, the return to school brings new adventures to pursue, don't let the reality of the school year routine get you and/or your family down. A case of the back to school blues can certainly be a challenging way to start the new school year. As you and your children ease back into the school year, however, the excitement of the things to come is sure to get all of you over the blahs and feeling ready to take on another school year. Welcome back! And hey, before you know it the holidays will be here...

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Jennifer A. Powell-Lunder, Psy. D. is currently a clinical administrator on an adolescent inpatient unit in a private psychiatric hospital. She is an adjunct Professor of Psychology at Pace University and maintains a private outpatient practice. She is also the creator of, a forum for family and friends.