The 5 Stages of Back-To-School Grief
With schools starting earlier and earlier every year, August has come to be Back-to-School Month across the nation. You see the signs everywhere: school supplies at the grocery store, advertisements on TV, and the look of dread and anxiety on the faces of kids and parents from sea to shining sea over the idea of having to start another school year all over again.
With all this in mind, we created a helpful guide to the five stages of grief both parents and students go through this time of year. We hope it helps get you through these trying times.
YOU ARE WELCOME.
For students, the very idea that school is already starting back up again is enough to drive them deep into the Pit of Despair. Summer just started, after all, and they haven’t done nearly everything they’d planned on doing during the break. There’s no way it could be time to go back to school!
It’s a little different for parents. While many are excited about the idea of getting their kids out of the house every day, none are looking forward to the true cost of school, which is the actual cost of school. It’s getting more and more expensive every year, regardless of whether your kids are in private school or public. It’s easier to just deny it’s already happening, especially when you forgot to budget for it.
Students have the luxury of just being angry that school seems to start a little earlier every year. They get mad at their school, their local school district, and even the state for ever allowing such a travesty of justice to happen. They blame their parents for wanting them out of the house, they blame their teachers who they truly believe live for reading, writing, and arithmetic, and they blame greedy administrators hungry for the increased revenue that comes with more attendance days. And they pass that anger and frustration on to their parents, who take the brunt of their adolescent rage.
For their part, parents are dealing with their own anger issues this time of year, especially after the school supply lists and various fee structures come out. Why does every extra-curricular class come with its own fee? How many spirit shirts are we expected to buy, anyway? And why do we have to buy Kleenex and hand sanitizer for middle school students? Shouldn’t they have learned to wash their hands in elementary school? And another thing! Who are all these glue sticks really for? Are we buying for the entire classroom? How much glue do schools even need? I bet the teachers are just selling it on the black market to fund their crippling addictions to dioramas and map pencils.
This stage tends to kick in during back-to-school clothes shopping. No one wants to be there, not the parents and definitely not the students.
For younger kids, the very idea of clothes shopping is right up at the top of their Great List of Things That Are Way Too Boring To Even Consider, while older kids shudder at the mere thought of going to the mall with their moms and being seen coming out of the dressing room to model their new pants while she digs her fingers into the waistband to “see if they’ve got some grow room” in them.
Meltdowns and fights are unavoidable, which is when the bargaining begins. Younger kids can usually be reasoned with by the promise of a cookie from the food court or something, but older kids tend to attach high dollar items to their lists of insatiable demands. Visits to Hot Topic, Gamestop, and/or various shoe stores are likely to be involved. (As is the inevitable sulking when the parent refuses to yield to their teenager’s ridiculous demands.)
After the shopping is finally done, no one is happy. Students are burdened with the inevitability of it all and get bummed out after the whole idea of going back to school becomes real once the pencils and backpacks and outfits have been bought. This is when the angst begins, which tends to last until graduation once the students hit their teens.
Parents, on the other hand, are mostly just crying over their bank balances and how all the money that used to be there isn’t there anymore. They go over the school supply lists, checking off each absurd item to make sure they bought everything, while also doing quick calculations in their heads that ultimately end with everyone in the house eating instant ramen for the next six months.
The last stage doesn’t usually happen until the first day of school, when everyone is forced to accept that there’s no stopping it. This is happening, so we might as well make the best of it.
Of course, after the first day is over and students come back home with brand new school supply lists because it turns out every single one of their teachers has their own, very special list of demands that weren’t included in the general supply lists, the whole grief process starts all over again.
First, there’s Denial that the new supply lists would really be that much different than the general supply list. Surely there’s a lot of overlap, right? The school would never allow a useless supply list to go out when they knew teachers would just make up their own, would they? Then, there’s Anger over the idea that we even spent any money on supplies in the first place when half of them won’t even be used because our kid’s Science teacher wants very specific types of folders with pockets and brands in colors that are impossible to find. After searching for them all over town to no avail, we start the Bargaining process to try and convince ourselves that maybe the teacher will accept plain old purple folders instead of the required shades of periwinkle, lavender, and lilac. Depression soon follows when we realize we’re just lying to ourselves, until we ultimately just Accept our fate and special order them from the one Amazon seller who still has some priced at three times their regular market value.