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Back-To-School Mental Health

September 6, 2022

The transition from summer to back to school can be difficult for any child. After weeks or months of having a less structured sleep schedule, fun-filled vacations or day camps, and freedom from the demands of daily homework, you might find that your child is approaching the upcoming school year with dread, avoidance, or outright resistance.

back to school - child mental health

Back to School Tips

While all of these reactions are normal, here are some tips for making the transition easier:

  1. Talk to your child about the upcoming change. Make a list with your child of what will be the same, different, or unknown as they enter a new grade. Read books together about going back to school.
  2. Start adding structure to your schedule. Rather than jumping in all at once, try inserting a bit of structure one step at a time. It could be adapting a regular bedtime, setting times for eating and play, or having a practice race of getting ready in the morning.
  3. Mark your calendars. Mark the first day of school on a calendar, have a countdown, or find some other creative way to help your child prepare. Also attend back-to-school night if your child’s school is holding one.
  4. Make it special. Whether it is a new outfit, new school supplies, or a special treat in your child’s lunchbox, give your child something to look forward to for their first day.

Back-to-School Mental Health Signs

While it’s normal to be dreading the first day of school, here are some signs that your child might be struggling with their mental health:

  1. Crying spells. If your child is crying longer or more often than usual, they may be struggling with anxiety or depression.
  2. Nightmares or sleeplessness. If your child is unable to fall asleep or stay asleep, or they are waking up with nightmares more often than usual, this may point to an underlying mental health condition.
  3. Extreme tantrums. If your child is acting out more than is characteristic for them, this may also be an indicator of a mental health concern.
  4. Avoidance or hiding. If your child cannot tolerate any mention of school or anything related to it, this is also cause for concern.

If you find your child is struggling with any of the above symptoms, there is help available. Canvas Health has school-linked mental health services at several Twin Cities metro schools, and we also have outpatient clinics throughout the metro.

Even if your back-to-school doesn’t look like the happy photos you see on your friends’ social media posts, just remember that kids are resilient and that early intervention can help get your child back on track. Don’t hesitate to give us a call or reach out to your school social worker for resources.

Author: Danielle Hance, MA, LPCC, REAT – Canvas Health school-based therapist

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