August is National Back to School Month! For most students and caregivers’ going back to school is an exciting time, new teachers, new & returning friends, and for some new schools. But as summer comes to an end returning to school can be anxiety-provoking for others.
We will introduce tips for caregivers to help their students prepare to go back to school and ways they can support their students’ mental health. And different signs that might indicate that their students may be suffering from stress, whether it’s induced by returning to school or from other stressors in their life.
Caregivers can help their students transition from summertime to school time more seamlessly by just following the tips listed below:
- Tip #1: Reintroduce school-year structure to your student’s routine: Around two or three weeks before the start of school, start transitioning your student back to their school year bedtime. By introducing them back to their school year bedtime routine, you can help them be adjusted and rested for the first day of school. You can start to introduce this by slowly having them go to bed 15-30 minutes earlier than what they have been doing during summer break.
- Tip #2: Shop for school supplies with your student: Letting the student’s in your care be a part of getting ready for the back-to-school process can help them become more excited about the upcoming school year. It can help them feel more independent for picking out specific supplies that show off their personality to their new teachers and classmates.
- Tip #3: Visit the school building: Whether your student is entering kindergarten, middle school, or high school, transitioning to a new school environment is nerve-racking for everyone. If the school offers opportunities to tour the school and meet the teachers, take advantage of it so that by the time school starts, your student may feel a little more comfortable that first week, so that by the second week, they’ll be more than ready to head in those front doors.
- Tip #4: Schedule playdates: This is a perfect time to let your student be reacquainted with pals from the previous year or to have them speak to someone already attending the school they will be attending (middle school or high school). This can allow your student to ask questions and learn information about the school.
In today’s society, mental health is more openly discussed, providing caregivers an opportunity to open the door for their students to be more willing to share.
Here are some tips to support the student in your life’s mental health:
- Establish school-day routines early (homework and bedtime)
- Encourage open communication
- Incorporate positive reinforcement
- Maintain an optimistic tone/ positive attitude with your students
- Practice expectations
- Meet the teacher(s)
- Set up a school zone in a quiet place in your house (kitchen table, in the home office, etc.)
- Take your students back to school shopping for supplies and clothes
Students’ mental health and behavioral concerns can present in ways that may not always be thought of as symptoms of anxiety, stress, or depression.
Here are the various ways mental health concerns can manifest in children from pre-school through high school:
- Behavior problems
- Difficult following a schedule and routine
- Trouble sleeping
- Persistent nightmares
- Excessive crying, fear and worry
- Can also be impacted by stressors of adults around them
- Extreme disobedience or aggression
- More temper tantrums than normal
- Persistent difficulty separating from a parent(s)
- Especially if they were virtual the last school year
Grade school (4-8 grade)
- Excessive fears and worries
- Access to social media increase worry
- Extreme hyperactivity
- Sudden decrease in school performance
- Loss of interest in friends, and favorite activities
- Loss of appetite
- Excessive worry about weight gain and physical appearance
- Sudden changes in sleeping habits
- Visible prolonged sadness
- Substance use/abuse
- Seeing or hearing things that are not there
Tween and Teens (9-12 grade)
- Destructive behavior, such as damaging property or setting fires
- Constantly threatening to run away, or continuously running away
- Withdrawing from friends and family
- Making comments/writings indicating desire to harm themselves or others
- If they is noticed reach out to mental health professionals asap
- Risky behaviors, things they would’ve never attempted or have been caught doing
- Substance use/abuse
- Is it experimental or persistent?
Each year kids return to school, moving up to the next grade, ready to learn new things and make more friends. But it’s important to remember that while it’s an exciting time for student’s and a proud moment for their caregivers, it can still be stressful or nerve-wracking even for the most enthusiastic students. Remember to spend quality time with your student’s, remind them of how proud and how much you believe in their abilities, and lastly, that you’ll always be their biggest supporter and always be there for them. Happy back to school!