Manage Your Back-To-School Mental Health
Going back to school can be an exciting time, but it can also be terrifying, especially for students who may have experienced bullying, anxiety, stress, depression, or trauma. Now more than ever students are coping with intense experiences including school shootings, natural disaster anniversaries, and heightened political and social tensions affecting young immigrants and the LGBTQ community. So how can parents help their kids deal with all the stress and anxiety this year?
Here are 5 tips to help your kids through the challenging back-to-school period:
Gauge the problem. Some kids may feel going back to school can worsen symptoms of anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress. Be aware of the symptoms such as stomachaches, having trouble sleeping, and irritability. These can be signs your child may be struggling with stress, anxiety or depression. In addition to encouraging your child to communicate about any problems or concerns happening in school, there is a free and anonymous screening tool provided by Mental Health America.
Identify coping skills. It is important for your child to keep these questions in mind: “What has worked in the past to help you feel better in coping with emotional and mental distress? What made things worse? What can you do to avoid it?” Asking such questions can help better prepare your child for stressful times ahead.
Get educated. There are many mental health resources and educational materials online. In addition to finding resources through your employee assistance program, you can also learn more from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, National Institute of Mental Health, Mental Health America, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and National Eating Disorders Association.
Know where to draw the line with the Internet. It is important for your child to realize that even though the internet can be useful, it can also make you feel miserable. Social media cannot only bring support from friends, but it can also be a platform for cyber bullying. Make sure your kids know the risks when using the internet, especially when using social media. Teach them to use it wisely and know when it is time to take a step back from it.
Reach out. Encourage your child to reach out when things get tough. If communicating with you as a parent is too difficult, then urge them to speak with a friend, a counselor, a coach, or someone they can trust. It can also be helpful to join extracurricular activities which can help boost self-esteem, learn new skills, and heighten one’s self of belonging.