TAKE STEPS TO NURTURE YOUR CHILD’S MENTAL HEALTH
As the start of a new school year approaches, children and teens are likely feeling a mix of emotions – excitement, anticipation, and maybe some apprehension. Prepping for the start of school doesn’t include just new supplies and clothes, it’s also about helping the child in your life be mentally prepared.
The Center for Mental Health Services has identified four key ways that you can help children start the new year off right and maintain their mental health throughout the school year.
Communicate: Encourage children to express their feelings about going back to school. Acknowledge their fears, make them feel understood, and reassure them that being a little nervous is perfectly normal.
Create Routines: A consistent routine fosters a sense of security in children, like a regular sleep schedule, eating healthy meals, and setting aside time for homework and relaxation.
Make Advance Preparations: Attend any open houses or orientations at the school. Meeting teachers, locating classrooms, and becoming familiar with the school layout can help students feel more confident on the first day of school. It can also be helpful to practice morning routines like getting ready for the bus or identifying routes to school.
Encourage In-person Social Interactions: Create opportunities for children to get together with their old friends and future classmates to ease them back into social engagement.
Once the school year starts, check in on your children’s mental well-being. Keep an eye out if your child:
1. Is having a hard time concentrating on school work and day-to-day activities.
2. Is having a hard time falling asleep or staying asleep.
3. Can’t manage their emotions, either overreacting, seeming numb or detached.
4. Has frequent ailments like stomach aches, headaches, nausea, and diarrhea. This is especially common in young children who don’t have the words yet to describe their thoughts and feelings.
If you notice lingering symptoms, contact your doctor. The Children First Health Manual has a whole section devoted to resources for children’s mental health, also known as behavioral health.
Understanding the terms and mental health system can be daunting, so we developed a useful guide, “Understanding the Alphabet Soup: Key Terms for Children’s Behavioral Health,” to make it easier.
Children First is also hosting Beating the Back to School Blues, a series of interactive sessions for Philadelphia parents about student mental health and the resources available in the city. Multiple sessions are available to meet the demands of your busy schedule. Dates, times, and registration information here.
Let’s make sure students start the school year off right with all the tools they need to succeed including a healthy mind and spirit.