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The End of Vacation, Back to School and Work

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More

I have selected this topic for my log entry because it is near and dear to my heart right now, as it is to families all over the nation. If my readers have not noticed I have not posted for Mental Help Net for about two weeks. I was on vacation. Today, Monday, August 13th, 2007 I am back from vacation.

In addition, I have noticed, as you may have as well as I, that the light seems to have changed. As we head into mid August, the light has the glow of September looming in the near future. Fall, Labor Day, back to school, all things that echo in my memory from my earliest childhood. What I am aware of in my community here in Colorado is that schools are opening this week. In nearby communities schools will be opening during the next two weeks and well before Labor Day.

All of this means the end of vacation for children, parents, teachers and everyone else as we all head back to work and school.

The question is how do we cope with vacation being over and returning to school and work with a minimum of stress and discomfort? This is a dilemma for many people who find it difficult to adjust to arising early each morning in order to get the kids on the school bus and arrive at work in a timely fashion. It also means picking up the burdens and responsibilities of work, including meeting deadlines and once again being productive.

We in the psychotherapy biz refer to the end of vacation as "re-entry." Unlike the astronauts who probably feel relieved when their re entry is successfully completed because they have landed safely; many of us feel shock, disorientation, disbelief, depression, anxiety and loss. As my late grandmother used to say, in a way that I found disconcerting when I was a youngster, "its time to put your nose to the grindstone again." While she meant this comment in a positive way I found the image of my nose feeling raw and bloody from its being ground at the grinder very scary and upsetting.

To repeat the question: "How do we adjust to re entry to work and school with a minimum of stress and depression?"

Following are some suggestions for both individuals and families:Reducing the Stress of Vacation Ending:

1. It always a good idea to have an at least one extra day after vacation to be at home, unpack, relax and reorient one’s self to home before returning to work. Returning to work immediately after vacation can feel too much like a shock similar to the surprise a person can feel after jumping into a swimming pool that has not yet warmed up.

2. Beginning with the first day back from vacation cook and eat at home so as to get out of the vacation mentality.

3. Go to bed early before returning to work so as to feel refreshed when awakening the next day.

4. As part of # 3, if a trip has involved returning from different time zones sleep will be an excellent way to recover from the uncomfortable feeling of jet lag.

5. If vacation is a way to temporarily escape from a hated job then re entry will be difficult. To soften the blow it is important to plan on searching for a new job that will feel a lot better than remain in the same old drudgery of a hated job.

6. Upon returning home it is important to start planning for the next vacation. This strategy provides something to look forward to as a reward for going to work.

7. In terms of children and school, it is important that the entire family be prepared for the return to the school schedule. Preparation includes:

A. Purchasing pencils, notebooks, clothes, etc needed for the start of school.

B. For anxious children who experience separation with great difficulty it is important to be reassuring that they will return home at the end of the day and the family will still be there for them.

C. Children need the reassurance that parents will help them with their homework.

D. It is important that children get plenty of rest for the return to school. This means they must resume going to bed earlier than may have been permitted during vacation.

E. Parents need to help children with their clothes and lunches for their return to school.

8. It is important that parents set up structured procedures for children during the morning with each child’s chores and expectations clearly delineated. This includes clearly set roles for each parent during the early morning. Both parents need to help get children dressed, fed and out of the house in a timely manner. Morning chaos promotes anxiety and anger for parent and children if procedures are not consistent. A firm but loving household works best for all human beings.

And so, here I am again, writing my posts and articles, something I enjoy immensely, while I also mourn the end of vacation. However, my wife and I have something special to help us cope with the start of work again: we have photographs of our vacation and we have already relived the fun time we had as we downloaded our photos and looked at them on the computer.

Vacation is fun but returing to work and school need not be tragic and miserable.

Your comments are encouraged and welcome.

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