How do you feel about the kids returning to school next week? A bit sad that the holidays are over? A bit relieved? Looking forward to dropping them off on a new half-term? Dreading the school run?
For me, it’s a little of all of the above, and a new study by Allianz Insurance in partnership with Chartered Psychologist Dr. Simon Moore suggests that parents’ stress levels are 30% higher as they wake and anticipate the morning routine, peaking at 8.15am as they get ready to head out.
Allianz Insurance worked with Dr. Simon Moore and Anglia Ruskin University Cambridge to measure the levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) in a group of UK parents as they undertook their morning routine.
The research found that lingering stress levels affect parents whether they return home after dropping their kids at school or head to work, but almost a third agree (30%) that the school run can mess up timings for the rest of their day and a quarter (25%) reckon that the school run sets their mood for the rest of the day – good or bad.
On the plus side, the ‘stress tests’ also found that the school run isn’t all negative, with all of those participating feeling a sense of achievement when they complete the school run – regardless of whether it went well or not – and parents highlighting the best things about the school run: spending time with their children (39%), hearing about their day on the way home (36%) and being organised and on time (29%).
I can totally relate to the findings. I tend to get in a bit of a panic about getting ready against the clock, but I love spending time with the kids ahead of their learning day and I must confess to giving myself a little high five when everything goes to plan, which is definitely not everyday!
So, does it matter? Well there’s no point getting stressed about stress, of course, but on a practical level, getting too het up over the school run can present a real risk.
According to Dr Simon Moore, “Making sure parents are feeling as little stress as possible before they start the drive to school is crucial to ensuring road safety on the school run.” While Francesca Keefe of Allianz Insurance confirms: “We know that stress has a negative impact on driving behaviour and with over half (55%) of the UK’s children travelling to school by car it’s important that parents are doing what they can to relieve any unnecessary stress before they get behind the wheel.”
With the majority of parents (92%) not feeling confident about their morning running smoothly, I’ve put together a few tips that we’ll be using in our house to help make the school run go as smoothly as possible:
- Put shoes, bags and coats in a reliable place upon arriving home so that there’s never the last minute panic as you hunt for a missing shoe
- Create a devoted drawer in each child’s chest of drawers for school uniform so they always know where to look when they are getting ready
- Make it the house rule that the kids have to have their uniforms on before they come down for breakfast
- Always check book bags after tea, to avoid missing school trip slips, or panic to make a World Book Day outfit in 30 minutes
- Create a shared family calendar, either on the wall, or on your phones / computers so that everyone is always aware of changes and variations to the usual routine
- Once you’re ready to leave, have a little race to see who can get their shoes and coats on the fastest. This motivates the children to get off the sofa and to the door
Dr Simon Moore has some tips too:
- Many stressed people don’t get enough sleep and taking the chance to ‘switch off’ and get an extra half an hour in bed can work wonders.
- Laughing also releases stress busting hormones that will help every family member to feel a bit better about the morning routine.
So, are you feeling the strain this morning? And what are your tips for helping reduce school run stress?
This is a commissioned post in partnership with Allianz Insurance.