Back to School: mental health tips for parents
For some children returning to school is exciting, for others it's an anxiety inducing experience, here are some tips for supporting your child's return to school from children's therapist
1) Check in with them. Maybe they're excited, maybe they're nervous, or maybe they're dreading going back to school, you won't know if you don't ask. Regularly checking in with your child might not always be met with open conversation, you might get a couple of words, or some eye rolling, but doing it consistently shows your child they can speak to you when they need to
2) Listen to their worries, normalise and validate their concerns, even if they seem small to you! You might not have the answers but you can provide space for them to explore their feelings
3) Educate yourself. It's okay if you don't know how best to support your anxious or depressed child, there are loads of resources online which can help. Mind is always a good resource! Speak to the school if you need to, they might not have thanswer but they might be able to point you in the right direction. Know your own limits and seek professional support, there's no shame in getting professional help for your child. Talking about emotions and therapy with children helps to break down the stigma and let's them know that it's okay
4) Talk about feelings in general. If they're not anxious, great! But it's okay to explain to kids that they might experience these feelings at some point and let them know what they can do if they do. Speak about coping skills together so that they're prepared. Its a bit like having a fire extinguisher, hopefully you don't need it but you'll be glad you have one I'd you do.
5) Practice self care together. This gives you chance to get some self care in and spend time with your child while encouraging them to develop healthy habits. It's important to look after yourself too, you can't help your child to regulate their feelings if you're not regulated
6) Encourage balance. School, socialising activities, they can all be great and they can all be too much for kids.
7) Look out for signs of physical illness. Of course, check your child isn't physically ill before assuming their issue is emotional. But children often don't have the words for their emotions or know how to express them so they will manifest physically as headaches, nausea or stomach issues. These are signs that your child could be struggling with their emotions and that's in time to check in
8) Think about their sleep routine. Do they sleep well? If not what might help? Dark, quiet rooms, waking up at the same time each day, not being in bed during the day, avoiding exercising too close to bed time are all useful tips. There's loads of information on sleep hygiene available online, the NHS website is usually a good resource
9) Ask for help. Utilise the school, other parents, your own support system, your own therapy. Parenting can be hard, especially around school but support is out there!
What tips do you have for the back to school time?
I hope the return to school is easy for you and your child, if it's not and you do feel like some support for your or your child is needed then please get in touch