By the end of this month, you’ll probably have your kids’ class assignments and back-to-school lists. The return to school and planning around it can often bring anxiety for kids, especially those starting a new school, moving from elementary to middle school or having an older sibling move up schools or those who have experienced big changes over the summer, such as separated parents or birth of a new sibling.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness provides a good list of tips to navigate the transition back to school from 2021 which are still applicable this year and NPR published a piece in January 2022 about the state of mental health in school-age kids. Both articles provide good advice for parents, teachers, coaches, counselors and really anyone in a kid’s life.
- Listen to and acknowledge concerns. As a parent, it can be tough to not compare your kids’ experiences with each other or even with your own childhood. Something that is scary to one child may barely concern the other and that’s totally normal. By listening to concerns, you’re giving kids a safe place to share and as an adult, you can respond to the issues.
- Brainstorm coping mechanisms. Help your kids think of ways to handle their stressors immediately and alone if needed. Many of these strategies are part of standard meditations such as deep breathing, counting from ten, identifying senses in the room (something you can see, touch, smell and hear) or thinking of a pleasant location, like the beach or grandma’s house. If you feel like the child in your life needs additional help, don’t hesitate to reach out to licensed professionals to help both of you in the journey.
- Share your concerns. This is one subjective to how old your children are and what they can handle hearing; you know your kid better than anyone here. Maybe sharing your concerns about going back to the office regularly will show you child that you’re not invincible. As kids, we often thought adults knew it all. Not the case, right? Don’t go too deep or heavy with this one, but letting your kids know of similar worries and then, like the previous tip, brainstorm and practicing calming mechanisms can help.
Providing a listening ear and comforting shoulder is crucial in times of anxiety for kids. For a more in-depth look at back-to-school anxiety, the Child Mind Institute has a great list of resources and tips for adults.
Youth Villages is one of the largest providers of services to children in Tennessee and a national leader in children’s mental and behavioral health. The organization has been recognized by the Harvard Business School and U.S. News & World Report and was identified by The White House as one of the nation’s most promising results-oriented nonprofit organizations. Learn more at www.youthvillages.org.