Back-to-school is not only about books, pencils and computers – it can be cause for excitement and anxiety for students of all ages.
Getting children mentally ready for the upcoming school year is the objective of the latest campaign from Canadian Mental Health Association Waterloo Wellington.
Director of Children’s Services Krista Sibbilin said the start of the school year is often challenging to a child’s mental health — as well as the parents’. But, she says, conversation can help everyone get through it.
“It’s really opening up that communication with your child and validating their feelings,” said Sibbilin. “Parents should remind their children that they are going to see some teachers and other kids, and ask them how can they help and what are their concerns.”
CMHA Waterloo Wellington offers the following recommendations to parents:
1) Take some time to think through what the return to school might look like for your child and talk about what to expect.
2) Make sure young children feel comfortable with the functional things — putting on and taking off shoes and coat, managing their lunch bag. Consider taking younger children to play at the school playground to become re-acquainted with the space, and walk the route to school or the bus. It may be helpful for youth to visit their school as well.
3) Normalize the topic that summer is coming to an end and that school will be restarting.
4) Set a bedtime (and/or wake up time), moving it closer to what it should be for the school year. Setting a screen curfew (a “downtime” after which point there are no screens) is also beneficial.
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Communications Specialist Megan Brady said as a parent herself, these tips have made her child’s transition to school much easier.
“He was crying and didn’t want to go to school,” Brady said. “But as the year went on, he got more comfortable. In fact, we drove by his school and he said he is really excited to go back.”
CMHA WW also said it is crucial to be aware of stressors, as a parent or teacher, that may impact children or youth returning to school. These can include loss of work or changes to work arrangements, supporting and worrying about loved ones and feeling worn out after the summer.
Sibbilin said parents are also affected by back-to-school, and can also go through some mental rough patches too. She advises mindfulness and reaching out to others.
“It’s doing a little bit of self-reflecting of their own feelings and their own uncertainty,” said Sibbilin. “Parents need to find those who they can talk to so it does not reflect on their child.”
More about CMHA WW mental health resources and webinars can be found on their website.
They also offer a crisis line that is open 24-hours a day, seven days a week at 1-844-HERE-247 (437-3247).
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