Back to Stress

The kids need new notebooks. Meet-the-teacher nights are coming. There are new times for music lessons. Sign up now for the PTA.

And don't forget about the clingy little ones who won't board the bus.

Welcome to September, with its Stressed-Out Mamas and Harried Dads. While back-to-school time brings more regular schedules for children and their working parents, the early weeks also add new demands -- and new stresses.

At work, this can mean earlier departure times, days off and sometimes, balls dropped.

"It's like shifting gears. You have to get in another gear," said Helene King, president of Cope Inc., a District firm that provides employee assistance programs.

Three quick fixes she recommends for busy parents:

* Take a day or two off just as school starts and catch up on all things educational.

* Put aside less important tasks for now, at work and home, to get to your top priorities.

* Talk to other parents and ask for support from friends and neighbors.

And remember: Going back to school is stressful for everyone. So at least your angst won't be as hard to understand as your high schooler's calculus homework.

-- Vickie Elmer