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Mental Health for Back-to-School

Jul 25, 2023

It’s August, which means summer is winding down, and the start of a new school year is arriving quickly. It’s a major time of transition for school-aged children, and it may mean saying a hard goodbye to summer sleep schedules, extra free time, and warmer weather.

The transition itself brings a lot of unpredictability and newness. Apart from the stress of gathering all the necessary notebooks, pencils, and supplies, heading back to school can take a toll on children’s mental health, too. Kelsey Gaul, a therapist in People Incorporated’s School-Based Mental Health Services program, frequently works with school-aged children and offered some tips for parents helping children work through this type of stress.

  • Arrange for your child at least a week of buffer time to get back into that routine with bedtimes and waking times. Try laying the next day’s clothes out, so then that’s not a stressor once school starts.
  • It’s key for parents to understand and model their own emotions in front of their children. If you had a hard day, model to your kiddos that you might need to decompress and take self-care time. This will help them with their own emotional regulation. Validate that it’s okay to have a hard day. Sometimes parents don’t want to talk about their hard days, so allow children to do that too – be curious, but don’t push.
  • The pandemic threw off a lot of young kids’ routines, and being in larger groups is still hard for some kids with social anxiety. Encourage them to go to back-to-school events and activities so they can at least see the classroom and the peers they’ll be spending each day with. This will help them acclimate to their new routine more quickly once school starts.
  • Check-in with your child through an activity called Rose, Bud, and Thorn. Their Rose is something they enjoyed, the Bud is something they’re looking forward to or are hopeful about, and the Thorn is something that didn’t go so well. It’s an easier and more fun way to gauge your child’s feelings.
  • Try a free app called Finch, which is appropriate for adults and kids. You can set up some mental health goals within the app, like going outside and drinking water. The app allows you to track your goals and grow your bird as you accomplish them. Users of all ages get the satisfaction of nurturing something, and the app sends you positive affirmations as you go.

Saying goodbye to summer is hard. And while a new school year can feel daunting and scary, it can be really fun, too. If your child is in need of mental health support this school year, call People Incorporated’s Central Access Contact Center at 651-774-0011 to learn more about the support we have available for school-aged children.