Back to school season is here again, and now more than ever our children need our support. Transitions are always difficult for children, and the back to school transition is no different. After a year of virtual school, hybrid options, and changing social dynamics, these mental health conversations can be critically important for parents to have with their children.
First and foremost, we have to be honest with our children and listen. In the
light of the pandemic, it’s important for parents to have open conversations
around the child’s fears or anxieties, and reassure them that this is a natural
feeling. It can be helpful to share with the child that the parent has experienced
similar emotions in the same or familiar circumstances.
Keep it calm and supportive. As parents, part of our job naturally is to always
reassure our children. When a parent has conversations with their child, it is
important for the parent(s) to stay calm and relaxed, and have these
conversations in a calm environment. The ideal situation would be at home,
gathered together in a comfortable room, and not right when you are about to
walk out the door for the school bus or to leave for work. Give time for the
conversation to completely unfold, check-in once it ends and make sure there
isn’t anything else on the child’s mind, and give them an environment to process
what was just said.
And finally, coping skills can be of lifelong importance in a child’s
development. Children are resilient. They learn to stay strong through life’s
difficulties day in and day out. Back to school season is an opportunity for
parents to further support their children’s development. Teach your child coping
skills. Breathing exercises can be very helpful in stressful situations. Finding a
support system and people they know and trust to surround themselves with will
allow them to feel safe and find help when they need it.
Parents should be on the lookout for signs of extra stress or anxiety. Most
parents know their children, and if they see a red flag it is important for them to
address it right away. Examples of those red flags could be difficulty sleeping,
changing eating habits, being more withdrawn, and not wanting to spend time
playing or doing other activities that they typically enjoy. If the parent isn’t
equipped to handle these situations, its time to call a mental health professional.
You Are Not Alone. The same holds true for our children. They are not alone in
the pandemic, they are not alone in the classroom, and there are always safe
places for them.
If you or someone you know needs resources for mental illness challenges,
contact the team at NAMI Greater Toledo at (419) 243-1119 or