Back to School: Taking Care of Our Kids’ Mental Health

While going back to in-person learning may finally seem normal, it’s anything but after a long year of uncertainty and change.

Once again, this school year is going to look a little different. Last year, kids were preparing to return to school virtually or as a hybrid model, but this year more kids are moving to in-person learning. While going back to in-person learning may finally seem normal, it’s anything but after a long year of uncertainty and change. Kids are going to feel a plethora of emotions this fall – excited, overwhelmed, happy, fearful, worried, confused, sad – just to name a few. It’s important for parents to be aware of their kids’ mental health, provide support, and help them navigate their feelings. We are here to provide you with tips on how to talk about mental health with your kids, what to look out for, and ways you can help.

Parents and caregivers know their children best, and they will be the first to notice any changes. Changes in mood, sleeping and/or eating patterns, behavior, loss of interest in or withdrawal from normal activities, or even psychosomatic symptoms like stomachaches or headaches can signify that your child may be experiencing depression, anxiety or other related mental health challenges. If your gut is telling you something is wrong, prepare to intervene and find an uninterrupted time to have a meaningful conversation with your child.

The first step to helping your child is to open up your communication lines, and provide a safe environment to talk openly about feelings. “Creating a safe environment for your child to experience whatever they’re experiencing – being accepting, understanding, not trying to explain it away or minimize it – is really going to build their confidence that their feelings are valid, their experience is valid, and they can move forward while confidently facing that stress,” says Lena Pope Counseling Services Supervisor, Jamie Diaz, LPC-S, NCC. “When your child sees that you are willing to listen and offer your undivided attention, it lays a foundation of trust, and shows them that you are there to support them no matter what.”

Another way to help your child is to provide as much routine and structure as possible. Returning to in-person school will be a significant transition, so establishing a daily routine will go a long way in taking some of the stress and fear away from your child. And within that daily routine, be sure to set aside time for family connection like dinner together at the table, a walk around the neighborhood, playing board games, or just talking together without distractions. Additionally, it’s beneficial to incorporate daily healthy practices like positive self-talk, meditation, deep breathing, exercise, etc.

Parents and caregivers are children’s best advocates; the encouragement, love, support, guidance, affirmation, and acceptance that children receive from them can make a huge impact on their emotional state during a time of difficult transition.

Contact us or call 817-255-2500 if you have concerns about your child.