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From Worries to Warriors: A Parent’s Guide to Back-to-School Mental Health

From Worries to Warriors: A Parent’s Guide to Back-to-School Mental Health 

We aren’t going to sugarcoat it; growing up is hard. A big part of growing up is learning about the unique person you are. An intricate part of that is knowing what impacts your mental health. The challenges children face as they transition from childhood to adulthood can sometimes lead to despair and hopelessness. Growing up is hard enough without adding things like social media, safety in schools, staying healthy, family financial security, and loss of loved ones. As a society, it’s our collective responsibility to create a culture where discussing mental health is positive and sharing feelings of depression, anger, confusion, or sadness is something to celebrate. As you prepare new school supplies for the new school year, take a few minutes to help prepare your child mentally. Racing for Mental Health is here to share your guide for back-to-school mental health. Let’s focus on how parents and schools can nurture mental health, encourage open discussions, and provide essential support systems.

 

Understanding the School-Mental Health Connection

Schools are a foundation to shape social perceptions and nurture values in future generations. Hence, they play a pivotal role in preventing youth suicide. By building a culture of understanding, empathy, and support, schools can create an environment where students feel safe to discuss their struggles and seek help. Schools work alongside parents and communities to teach youth what our society values. It’s essential to show that we all value mental health.

Establishing Peer Support Networks

Establishing Peer Support Networks

Peers can be powerful allies in the battle against youth suicide. Schools and parents should encourage forming peer support groups where students can connect, share their experiences, and provide emotional support to one another. It’s important to know you’re never alone in your struggle. Sometimes, talking to a friend who understands can make all the difference.

Promoting Open Dialogues

If you’ve ever worked in education or know an educator, you know they have a lot on their plates – we all do. This is a big reason why mental health awareness must be collaborative. Parents and schools can work in conjunction to organize regular discussions, workshops, and awareness campaigns that encourage students to openly discuss mental health, break down stigmas, and realize that seeking help is a sign of strength. By showing that conversations about mental health are normal, we encourage people to speak out before it’s too late. 

Set Realistic Expectations

The pressure to excel, to be the best, takes its toll on us all – especially youth. The drive for excellence wears on mental health. Encourage your students to try their best, not be the best. Emphasize that the goal isn’t perfection but personal growth and effort. Share stories of how challenges and setbacks have contributed to your own growth. Reassure them that it’s okay to make mistakes. In addition, create a community of active parents who help your child’s school adopt an approach that values overall well-being. Academic achievement and personal growth are a powerful combination when in balance. 

Give Time For Extracurricular Fun

Give Time For Extracurricular Fun

Extracurricular activities like sports, arts, and clubs can be outlets for stress and sources of joy. These activities promote teamwork, self-expression, and a sense of achievement, contributing to overall mental health. In addition, they help build resilience and mental strength.

Training Youth Leaders as Mental Health Advocates

Empowering your child to become a mental health advocate can create a ripple effect throughout the student body. Normalizing mental health starts with everyday conversations. You can help your child organize events to spread awareness. This also encourages their peers to prioritize mental well-being.

Reinforcing the Importance of Early Detection

The signs of distress often manifest early. Teachers, who spend a significant amount of time with students, are well-positioned to identify these signs. Talk with your child’s teacher about their training and views on mental health in the classroom. Many teachers attend workshops to help them recognize early warning signs in their students.

Creating a Web of Support

Creating a Web of Support

Schools, parents, mental health professionals, and communities form a safety net that catches struggling students before they fall too far and too fast. When we work together, we create a comprehensive support system. This system reinforces the message that help is always available, and there is no shame in seeking it.

Open Communication

Talk with your child about their thoughts and feelings regarding returning to school. Listen to what your child says – listen to hear, not respond. In addition, please pay attention to what they say and their body language. Sometimes, concerns aren’t vocalized. However, you can see emotions from gestures and expressions. Create a comfortable space where they can share any worries or concerns. Ask open-ended questions to encourage more profound answers.

Routines Are Powerful

Routines Are Powerful

Falling off the routine on beautiful, warm summer nights is easy. But routines are excellent ways to reduce anxiety and increase predictability. Begin establishing a school routine a few weeks before classes start. Set consistent bedtimes and wake-up times to help your child adjust to the school schedule. 

Promote Self-Care

You’re never too young to start self-care! Teach your child about different ways we can take care of ourselves. Show a variety of options (depending on your child’s age). Self-care is a personal process that looks different for each person. Model self-care for your child and make time for self-care a daily family event.

Stay Involved

Stay engaged in your child’s school life by attending meetings, events, and parent-teacher conferences. Being actively involved helps you stay informed about their progress and well-being. It also shows your child that you care about what’s happening in all aspects of your life – even when you aren’t there.

Model Healthy Coping Strategies

Model Healthy Coping Strategies

Demonstrate healthy ways of managing stress in your own life. Share your strategies for dealing with challenges, such as exercise, reading, spending time outdoors, or engaging in hobbies.

Discuss Suicide Prevention Resources

While hard, your child may not always feel comfortable coming to you with their feelings. Ensure your child is aware of available school resources, helplines, or crisis text lines if they or their friends need immediate support. Encourage them that while you’re always there for them, you understand they may want to discuss things with another trusted person. Emphasize sharing your mental health struggles with a trusted adult or peer is essential.

Promote Resilience

Resilience is an essential life skill. It helps everyone navigate challenges, setbacks, and uncertainties. As parents, fostering resilience in your child is one of the best life skills you can help them develop. Resilience empowers people to cope with stressors, adapt to changes, and maintain good mental health despite adversity. 

Promoting resilience has a direct connection to suicide prevention. Resilience gives children the tools to manage stress and adversity. It also helps reduce their vulnerability to mental health challenges that might lead to suicidal thoughts. When children feel confident in their ability to overcome obstacles, they are more likely to reach out for help and seek support when needed.

 

Let's Talk About It!

Let’s Talk About It!

As you prepare your child and yourself for school to start, apply these back-to-school mental health tips. By having open conversations, encouraging an environment that prioritizes mental health, and helping your child find balance, you can help your child thrive. We all struggle and need a helping hand at some point in our lives. When we work together, we create positive change in the mental health world.

Are you interested in doing more for your community? Racing for Mental Health offers a Community Ambassador program so you can help create a society that boldly speaks out about mental health. Contact us today!

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