4 Reasons Back-to-School Can Be Stressful And What You Can Do About it

by Amy  - August 23, 2022

I wrote an earlier article about a dozen reasons why back-to-school can feel complicated, especially in a blended family where there could be stepparents and maybe a divorce or two. 

As I researched these and coached people on this topic I realized that what was on that list  were situations. 

That’s how the conflict shows up in our lives. 

This is sometimes called a presenting problem. 

These can be called  the fires that need to be put out in our lives.

Today I’m going to talk about the reasons behind those situations that feel so stressful come up during back-to-school season.

Why this is helpful to know is that if you just try to fix the symptom sometimes it’s not enough. 

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I want to pause for a second because many instructors and coaches will present this and things like this as an absolute 100% every situation all the time thing. I don’t actually find that to be true. Sometimes a situation or a symptom can be simple to fix. 

Sometimes if you only look at the symptom the situation will repeat with the same problematic results. This is a lot of the time but not always.

Above I described these as the fires that needed to be put out. So to use that as a metaphor sometimes all we need to do is put out the fire. It was a camp fire set up by us and we put it out and the situation is over. 

Other times we want to figure out what created the fire. Remember this is a visual metaphor – the fire is our problem. If the fire is caused by a gas leak or an electrical problem or a stack of dry flammable stuff that is hit by sunlight through a window if we don’t figure out the cause it can just repeat. 

When we talk about family and children things those repeating issues can become a heavy and overbearing weight. 

Here are what I think are the reasons behind those situations or the deeper reasons why back-to-school can feel so “hard.”

This is why it can be really helpful to look at what’s the underlying root cause of what’s going on. 

So here are the things that I think are specific about back-to-school that are part of the underlying cause that can lead to un-fun, stressful complicated situations. 

  1. Back-to-school is a high pressure situation. There’s a deadline. School starts on this day, at this time in this specific location.  In my experience, anytime that a lot of people are trying to do the same thing at the same time it can feel like pressure. This is true for leaving a football game or a concert, exiting off of a highway while driving a car , or getting forms completed in time for school. It feels high stakes. If the adults mess this up then the kids pay the price (this is not always true – this is what we tell ourselves as adults …more about this later).
  2. School is a place where the family structures collide. In blended families I sometimes talk about the first first family and the second family. These are imperfect words but they are descriptive in how the family members are connected. School can be a place where these two groups are brought together and forced to interact. So if there are any weird vibes or unresolved issues they can come up here. 
  3. School preparation can be expensive and finances are a top source of conflict in any family or group.

The fourth one is a big one. It can be hard to spot ESPECIALLY for new stepparents. 

  1. If we went to school …and we had our own imperfect experiences at school…which we did because life is not perfect, ever.  If that is true then sending our kids and step kids off to school is a place where we may come face to face with our own unresolved issues about the school experience that we might  project onto our step kids and kids. We won’t even know that this is what we are doing. 

A top signal that this is going on is when you are worried about something that the child is not worried about and neither are the other adults. If we are worried but the school is not worried, the teachers are not worried, our friends are not worried, nobody but us is worried then this is about us and not the kid.

These are what I think are the supporting reasons. 

These are the start of the path to begin to fix it. 

Once you identify what you think the reason might be then you can begin to formulate your steps to make it better. 

Maybe the situation that is making you batty is splitting up supply lists with your ex or the other house. 

Maybe you are sending emails back and forth and fighting over who will buy the pencils or uniform shirts or who will pay for them. 

You feel stuck and disempowered. But then you hop on a call with me and you realize that you feel disempowered and uncomfortable because the finances are not the same as they were before and you aren’t sure how this will work now. (Those are reasons 2 and 3 btw).

Then  you can make a plan to deal with that. Because it’s not really about school supplies it’s about feeling confident and secure in your role in your family now and feeling empowered in your finances.

If you are ready to learn more about working directly with me click here.

If you are looking for support on Back to School check out my back to School summit here.

Training for You

Grab my Steps for Happiness as a Stepparent

Finding your happiness in a blended family


Amy Stone (she/her/hers) is a life coach who helps adults in blended families. She is a mom, step-mom and a step-grandma. Other random fun facts include that She is a 7-time Ironman triathlon finisher and many many marathons and shorter races. She created amysaysso.com.

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