Prioritizing Mental Health as Kids Head Back into the Classroom
As children head back into the classroom, it’s important that Youth Villages equips the communities we serve with information that can help kids, and their families, have a successful school year.
According to the CDC: 1 in 6 children in school have one or more mental impairments.
ADHD, anxiety problems, behavior problems, and depression are the most common diagnosed mental disorders in children.
Youth Villages’ North Carolina Licensed Program Experts put together these tips families can follow to ensure their child has a smooth school year and prioritize their mental health:
Routine and Structure:
- Make the morning routine run smoothly: picking out school clothes/uniform the night before and getting supplies and lunches packed can be helpful in having a good morning.
- To support changes in the routine from summer break to the new school year, review how expectations in the household may change around chores and curfew.
- Set healthy boundaries around screen time and monitor online activity to ensure kids are having safe interactions. Screen time can be a way for kids to decompress from their school day and connect socially with friends, however it is important to set boundaries have discussion around device expectations.
School Involvement and Communication:
- Familiarize yourself with your child’s schedule, meet teachers at open house, attend school meetings, and establishing a method of communication with teachers. Children perform better in school when their caregivers show a genuine interest and value in their child’s education.
- Help your kid(s) find extracurricular activities or clubs they can participate in. This can build their social network, increase their feelings of connectedness to the school, and fill after school time in a supervised and productive way.
- If a child needs support with adjusting to a new school or grade, or perhaps is experiencing stress or other mental health concerns, it is helpful to introduce the child to a school staff that can be an added support, such as the school counselor.
- Have a plan for who your child can reach out to if caregivers are not available during school hours.
- Pay attention to the following signs that your child may be experiencing distress:
- Changes in appearance
- Lack of proper hygiene
- Mood swings or unexplained personality changes
- Ignoring responsibilities
- Sudden changes in friends
- Feelings of shame or regret
- Eating or sleeping too much or not enough
- Losing interest in people and activities
- Feeling hopeless, irritable, or angry, or thoughts of harming oneself or others.
- If you feel your child needs additional support for their mental health, ask your school counselor for a service referral.
Tuning in to your Child’s School Experience:
- Pay attention to new peer interactions and how your child’s demeanor may shift. It’s important to monitor to ensure they are receiving positive social influences.
- Have open discussions with your child regarding alcohol and drug use as well as not accepting treats or gummies from peers at school that they don’t know.
- Establish an after school or evening check in that allows you to connect with your child on their day.
- Allow your child to have some downtime when they get home since the structure of the school day can be draining for some children. Many parents also need downtime after a long day of work. Offer them an after-school snack and check in with how their day went when they are ready.
- If there is a disciplinary problem at school, ask your child questions to try to understand what happened before reacting to their behavior. Help them figure out a plan for what they can do in the future to handle what happened differently.
- Provide appropriate, time limited consequences as needed, recognizing sometimes the punishment given by the school or the child’s embarrassment may be sufficient to make an impact on the child.