Back to School Mental Health Tips for Parents and Families
After weeks of lazy days, time in the sun, fun activities, and no alarm clocks, students return to school to start the new school year. Going back to school is an exciting time; however, it is often accompanied by feelings of anxiety and stress.
“According to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, mental health is a growing problem for our nation’s students. More than one in three high school students experienced sadness or hopelessness in 2022, a 40% increase since 2009. The same year, approximately 1 in 6 youth reported making a suicide plan, a 44% increase in the past ten years.” (www.cdc.gov)
As a parent, to make this your child’s best school year yet, it is essential to take an active role in establishing healthy habits, schedules, and mindsets.
Here are some tips to support your student’s mental health as they start the new school year:
Start the year with a new perspective. Even though summer vacation is only a few months long, students change significantly during their time off. New experiences, spending time with those they love, growth spurts, and puberty can all affect your child’s attitude and perspective. Talk to your children about how they feel entering the new school year.
Plan a daily routine. Reduce stress in the future by making daily routine plans now. Helping your student plan for daily success is essential. Spend time together talking about their schedule. This includes how many hours of sleep they need, what time to wake up in the morning, preparing clothes, backpacks, and lunches the night before, etc. By planning these types of things ahead of time, you are laying the foundation for a successful school year for your child and yourself.
Make sleep a priority. Oftentimes, a more relaxed sleep schedule occurs in the summer due to the lack of responsibilities during these months. Adapting to waking up early each day for school takes some time. Start making these changes to sleep schedules several weeks before school resumes. “The circadian rhythm in young people (the internal process that regulates the sleep-wake cycle) shifts two or more hours in just a matter of months. This sudden change in sleep schedules disrupts equilibrium and affects everything from mood and anxiety to behavioral problems in students”. (Kopelwicz, 2022).
Limit screen time. Too much screen time can be detrimental to our mental health. Experts say students should spend no more than two hours in front of a screen daily. (www.cdc.gov) Many older students with smartphones are connected from the time they wake up until the time they fall asleep, and the effects of this are overwhelming. With the increase in screen time, there is an increase in cyberbullying, anxiety, depression, and many other health-related issues, such as obesity and vision problems.
Whether getting used to a new school, new friends, or managing homework, a new school year can overwhelm everyone involved. Always remember the importance of taking the time to unwind, unplug, and relax. Children need time to exercise, play, and engage in fun activities that they enjoy. Giving your children the time to explore and play will inspire creativity in them in the future, which, in turn, helps alleviate stress and improve their performance in school.
Saying goodbye to the long, relaxing summer days and returning to school can be difficult for everyone. It is very important to remind your children that it is okay to be overwhelmed and anxious. By respecting their needs, offering support, and giving them resources to navigate challenges that come with change, they will have the foundation for a successful and fulfilling school year.
If your place of employment has an EAP program, consider using this resource to help manage these needs. If your business or organization wants to learn more about Wholeness Healing EAP services, please contact me at 308-382-5297, Extension 127, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (August 2022). Helping young children and parents transition back to school. Retrieved via https://www.cdc.gov/childrensmentalhealth/features/COVID-19-helping-children-transition-back-to-school.html.
Koplewicz, Harold (August 31, 2022). Back-to-school tips for parents. Retrieved via https://childmind.org/article/halping-children-with-special-needs-go-back-to-school/.
School of Mental Health Ontario. How to support a mentally healthy back to school for your child. Retrieved via www.smha-smsa.ca.
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