How to support working parents as the school year starts

Koa Health
Publish Date

The start of a new school year is always challenging for children and parents. Falling back into the routine of getting up and going to bed earlier, catching the school bus, doing homework and participating in extracurricular activities can feel overwhelming.

Challenging situations often leave adults feeling stressed and anxious. The same is true for children; however, they can also sense these emotions in their parents, amplifying their emotional response. That’s why it’s vital that your organization provides the parents in your workforce with the tools and resources they need to support their own mental wellbeing and that of their children.

A growing concern for mental health

It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on mental health. About 4 in 10 U.S. adults reported symptoms of anxiety and depression in 2020, up from just 1 in 10 the year prior.

Children faced similar struggles during the pandemic. A study conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) revealed a 29% increase in anxiety and a 27% increase in depression in children from 2016-2020.

Unfortunately, the prevalence of these conditions across all age groups continues to climb. Working parents—and their children—need more support than ever before. But what can your organization do to help?

Supporting the caregivers in your workforce

Allow schedules to shift

Whether your workforce is on-site, remote or hybrid, accommodating hectic new family schedules can go a long way towards helping your employees maintain their own mental wellbeing and productivity. While offering some flexibility with how and when all employees work is a great way to build a culture of mental wellbeing, understand that parents might need to use more flextime around the beginning of the school year.

Reduce workplace stress

The average person will spend roughly one-third of their life at work, meaning that what we experience during the workday can have a big impact on life outside of work. When employees have an unmanageable workload, stress levels rise and the risk of burnout increases. This can leave working parents feeling depleted and unable to effectively cope with additional stressors, potentially transferring those emotions onto their children.

Help your employees manage work-related stress by creating a safe environment for employees to express their needs. Ask managers to review and identify ways to reduce the burden of individual workloads across their teams. Encourage employees to regularly take breaks when necessary. Discourage off-hour emails and allow them to disconnect during non-working hours. These are all simple ways to ensure your people feel supported at the start of the school year and beyond.

Make it educational

Children shouldn’t be the only ones learning. It’s important that parents have access to tools that enable them to understand not only their own mental health but how children might be experiencing similar difficult emotions going back to school. Empowering parents to learn about their emotions and those of their children can help them to identify an issue before it reaches a more critical stage.

“As the mother of two daughters, one quickly approaching the teen years, as they go back to school and sports I am more and more aware of the prevalence of bullying and peer pressure in schools and my children’s peer groups. Having tools that help me understand how to talk to my girls about things such as peer pressure, bullying and the anxiety that goes along with these topics makes me feel that I can help enable them to be stronger if faced with these situations.” - Christine Howard, SVP, Alliances at Koa Health

Prioritize mental wellbeing

Helping employees gain an understanding of mental health is great, but they also need the right resources to manage their mental wellbeing. Increase ultilization of mental health benefits and resources available to your employees through regular benefits communications. This can help build a culture of mental wellbeing at work.

Your organization may already have several benefits available (EAPs or in-person or virtual therapy, for example), but are experiencing low utilization. It’s important to understand that many members of your workforce who are struggling with their mental health avoid seeking support due to a lifetime of stigma. In fact, the primary reason people do not seek help is a preference for self-care. Investing in a digital-first mental wellbeing solution allows your teams to access support where and when they need it most—without fear of judgment.

Sophie Dix, VP of Content at Koa Health, shares strategies and insights to help employers support the wellbeing of parents and families at their organization.

Show educators some love

Educators are caregivers, too. From maintaining open communication across staff and students to showing extra empathy for teachers, admins and support staff, these take practice. After years of uncertainty and high-pressure situations in schools, it can be extra difficult for everyone to adjust to the back-to-school routine. Be patient and remind your workforce and students to give themselves time to re-grow, find their focus and reestablish positive behaviors and relationships.

For organizations outside of the education sector, there are plenty of ways you can help educators and students ease back into the school year (which should, in turn, ease the strain the parents on your teams are facing). Encourage parents to support the educators in their community by granting them flexibility to get involved at school. Allowing time off for parent-teacher conferences or after-school pick-up can help everyone adjust to the back-to-school routine.

"Building relationships with teachers, admins and support staff is really important to me. Getting to know them and volunteering in the school helps me establish trust and build empathy for our educators who have worked so tirelessly through so much change and uncertainty in the last few years. It helps me worry less about how my kids are doing at school and gives me confidence that we’ll all be able to work through difficult situations because of our solid foundation.” - Hailey McDonald, Vice President of Marketing

If your organization has a matching program for charitable donations or volunteer days, encourage parents to support their local schools. Oftentimes parent-led ERG groups can be great champions to help lead these initiatives. Giving back feels great and supports good mental health all around.

Remember, just as relationships and trust are key to sending kids back to school, they’re also essential to helping employees bring their best selves to work each day. Showing the working parents at your organization that you care about them and their families can go a long way. Enabling your employees—both parents and non-parents—to maintain their mental wellbeing can support talent retention, increase productivity, lower rates of absenteeism and reduce medical claim costs.

Ready to help your employees and their families thrive through the school year? Contact us at, or schedule a call with one of our experts, here.

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Koa Health

The Team @ Koa Health

Our diverse team of developers, researchers, psychologists and behavioral health experts work together to create practical, thought-provoking content to accompany our range of digital therapeutics.