Back-to-School: Tips for Supporting Your Child’s Mental Health
- Category: Mental Health
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Growing up poses many concerns, including dealing with bullying, safety in schools, and staying healthy and coping with pandemic stress – so it’s not surprising that the rates of anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues are increasing in children. Going back to school, especially with the prevalence of virtual learning over the last couple of years, can be stressful for kids – particularly those that already live with a mental health condition.
These tips can help you support your child in dealing with back-to-school stress, alleviate their fears, and improve any anxiety symptoms they are experiencing to ensure a productive and healthy school year.
Listen emphatically to concerns
You are one of your child’s most important confidantes. It is crucial to be available to discuss your child’s worries so that you can reassure them, answer questions, and offer solutions. It’s also helpful to let your child lead the conversation. When your child does open up to you, remember to give them your undivided attention -- turn off the television, put your phone away, and listen.
Make a daily debrief after each day at school part of your routine to give your child an open line of communication to address any problems or stressors they encounter, such as bullies, anxiety about classwork, or an issue with a teacher. Ask your child about their day, every day.
Give your child time to adjust
After an entire summer of freedom, sleeping in, and playing with friends, children might struggle to acclimate to the structure and rigid routine of the school year. There may be a bit of an adjustment period where you and your child will have to work together to ease the kinks and settle into a comfortable groove. A little patience and understanding will go a long way in successfully transitioning your child from home life back to school days.
Practice your morning routine
After a long summer of fun away from school, kids may need a refresher to help them get back into the classroom mindset. A practice run may effectively ease some back-to-school jitters. Running through all the usual getting-ready steps in the morning, such as getting dressed, packing a lunch, and walking to the bus stop or taking a drive to school, will help you and your child have a seamless and well-timed first morning. This will be especially helpful for your child if they are starting at a brand-new school -- making a new routine familiar in advance will prevent lateness and stress on the first day.
Do a school walk-through
A lot of anxiety is caused by a fear of the unknown. To help alleviate your child’s nervousness, particularly if they are starting at a new school, you can ask the school if you can visit and do a walkthrough before the first day. This way they can find the entrance to the building easily, locate their locker and classrooms, and learn the lay of the land so that they can more easily navigate their way around the building on the first day.
Establish healthy self-care
Helping your child establish a consistent routine for self-care can do a lot to boost mental health. Carving out some time for activities that bring joy or ease stress, such as reading, journaling, or drawing, is a great lesson in prioritizing time management and self-care. It’s also a great idea to help them get into habits like laying out their school-day outfit or packing their lunch the night before to prevent a hectic morning, which can really set a negative tone for the day. Sticking to a daily routine for chores, important tasks, and hobbies can provide stability and be quite helpful for children with anxiety.
Encourage a good night’s sleep
Children require a solid sleep routine to function and maintain optimal physical and mental health. Lack of sleep can increase the chance of learning and behavior problems, exacerbate depression and anxiety, and make a day at school a miserable one. Encouraging a proper bedtime and restricting screen time at night before bed will help your child can a good night’s sleep and wake up the next day well-rested. Devices should ideally be turned off at least 15 to 30 minutes before bedtime and left to charge out of reach to reduce the urge to use them.
If your child is feeling anxious about going back to school, speaking with a therapist may help. Call our team at LiveWell counseling at (201) 848-5500, to learn more and schedule a visit with our highly-trained clinicians.