This week I am happy to introduce Jan MacKenzie, MA, as my guest blogger. This time of year, as we say goodbye to summer and buckle down into fall, is a time of many transitions and avenues for stress. Getting back into the school mindset is at the top of the list for many. Read on as Jan lends some wisdom to how we as parents can stay centered and cool headed as well as providing some tips to help our kids do the same.

Helping your child start the school year off right is always a work in progress. It can be challenging to go from the relaxed, stress-free days of summer to the fast paced, highly-scheduled school year.  While returning to school is great for kids, it can create anxiety for them as well as their parents.  So, how do we stay centered and grounded during this time? AND, how to we help our children stay centered and grounded and be successful students?

  • Get Organized One way to help your student stay calm and organized is to stay calm and organized as parents.  If parents are anxious, many times kids will pick up on that.  If a house is chaotic and disorganized, it can be challenging for kids to stay on top of things.  If kids have more than one home, it requires even more thought. Schools and parents try to support the students with their organization with planners, organizers and “systems” to help stay on top of their sch140818195546-middle-school-story-topoolwork.  For some students, this is easy and they have a system that works well for them.  For others, this is not so easy and can cause a great deal of stress. For many people, getting and staying organized is a lifelong process.  We continuously refine and tweak, depending on the results we are getting.  So, whatever process is being used, know that it may need to be revised from time to time.  Also, know that your own organizational style may not fit your child’s.  Helping them approach their school work in a calm and consistent way, is one of the best things you can do to help your child.
  • Unplug Another way to help kids lower their stress level is to limit screen time.  Too many kids struggle with anxiety these days.  The addiction to screens, apps and social media contributes to a lot of that anxiety.  The continuous monitoring, posting, liking, commenting, sharing, etc. is out of control for many.  I often advise parents to “take away” their child’s phone for, at least, a couple of hours after school and always before bed. Screen-free family time is a great way to have everyone disconnect for a while.  That doesn’t mean you all have to sit together and sing campfire songs, it just means that you will all do something other than look at a screen.  Here’s the thing:  when you “take away” your child’s phone, they will kick and scream and tell you how mean you are and no other parent does this, yadda, yadda.  But, that’s not true. AND, they will be RELIEVED to not have it.  They will never tell you this, but it’s true.  We talk so much about anxiety as it connects to schoolwork but the social anxiety is overwhelming for our kids.  (This is a topic for another blog!)
  • Down Time Another way to help lower kids stress level is to be mindful of their busy schedule.  School, practices, lessons, etc. can be great fun.  It can also be too much.  Try to carve out some times during the week and weekend for down time.  This is essential for all of us.  Kids and adults need time to rest and recharge. girl at desk
  • Check In Lastly, pay attention and notice if your child seems overwhelmed.  They aren’t always able to verbalize this.  They may even become quieter and try to isolate.Check in with them. Check on their schoolwork.

In other words, BE THERE. Let them know that you can and will help. Nothing is more important than their happiness and mental well-being.


Jan Mackenzie is owner of MacKenzie Consulting. After retiring from the Ann Arbor Public Schools in 2016, she founded MacKenzie Consulting to help families navigate the adolescent years. As Jan says, her work ” allows me to continue sharing my experience with families in and around the Ann Arbor community.  I love my community and I love my work! “

Jan holds an MA in School Guidance and Counseling and a BA in Physical Education and Health.

Learn more about Jan and her services at