4 Ways to Support Children’s Mental Health this School Year
The Nystrom & Associates provider consulted for this article is Heather Larson, Outpatient Therapist.
The beginning of a new school year can be a tough transition for children and families, especially considering the back-to-school season has looked so different throughout the last few years.
Heather Larson, Outpatient Therapist at Nystrom & Associates, knows how this transition can affect children:
Children have had a lot to deal with over the past few years when it comes to their education and schooling. Before the pandemic, stress was still a factor that students had to struggle through or cope with. Stress along with a wide range of emotions can affect many areas of a child’s life, including mental health, physical health, and academic performance to name just a few (1).
Here are four tips to help support children’s mental health during the back-to-school season.
Related: 6 Tips for Dealing With Crowds
Keep an Open Dialogue
The number one thing you can do to support children’s mental health is to keep the conversation going. Ask them how they’re doing, good or bad. Listen. Foster a safe space for them to open up. For example, ask questions like “What went well today?” and “What isn’t going so well?”
Whether before bed, while they’re getting ready, or during dinner, find a time you can regularly check-in. Asking questions creates an opportunity for them to open up and come to you if there is a problem or if they’re struggling.
Get in a Routine
When your child is at home, create a morning and evening routine. “In my experience, children have thrived more on having morning and evening routines at home, having a safe space to express and share their experience and emotions as well whether or not they feel they have support from those around them.”
Teach & Model Skills
Throughout the school year and beyond, it’s important to teach and model healthy skills to children. Heather adds, “Teaching children’s skills can not only assist them to be successful in their academic life, but also long-term can be beneficial (1).”
These skills would include but are not limited to:
- Conflict resolution
- Emotional regulation
- Expression of self, emotions, and needs and wants
- Coping and stress regulation
Watch for Changed Behavior
Keep an eye on changes in your child’s behavior, including their sleep and eating habits. Some changes might overlap with those that are common during a transition period, such as increased irritability.
However, if you’re concerned about your child’s behavior and mental health, don’t wait to get help. A mental health professional can help determine an underlying issue, but you know your child best. If you sense there’s a deeper issue, reach out for support.
Related: 6 Signs of Mental Illness
A Word From Nystrom & Associates
Going back to school can cause added stress and anxiety. If you or your child are struggling, we’re here to help. Many coping strategies can be learned in therapy, and the benefits can last through the school transition and beyond. Talk with us at 1-844-NYSTROM or request an appointment online.
Related: 5 Mental Health Myths Debunked
- Pascoe, M. C., Hetrick, S. E., & Parker, A. G. (2020). The impact of stress on students in secondary school and higher education. International Journal of Adolescence and Youth, 25(1), 104-112. doi:10.1080/02673843.2019.1596823