Back-to-school stress tips for kids – The Interior Journal

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Back-to-school stress tips for kids

Posted at 12:10 p.m. on Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Dr. Amy Lynn Meadows

University of Kentucky

Children have faced many changes over the past few years. It is important to recognize that change, even good, can sometimes be difficult for children. As we work to establish a post-pandemic balance, we need to be sensitive to those who may struggle more with transitions.

Mental health experts are still seeing higher rates of anxiety and mood problems in children and teens compared to pre-pandemic rates. Depression and anxiety in children may not look exactly like they do in adults – they may be more likely to isolate themselves or act out.

Here are some tips to help your child through this time of transition:

Talk it over. The most important thing is to be open and communicate emotions with children. Have regular conversations with children, such as at dinner or bedtime, and ask specific, probing questions. Don’t be afraid to ask the children questions. We all have a role to play in normalizing mental health, but we can start by having open discussions about mental health, stress, and self-care with our children.

Go slowly. Parents sometimes go into problem-solving mode when we really should slow down and recognize that it can be normal to be stressed or anxious. Adults can validate the emotion, be open to talking about it, and help children find their own solutions instead of us trying to solve it for them.

Get back to a routine. One of the biggest challenges is getting kids back into a good routine. Mental and physical health are closely linked, so we’re talking about a few cornerstones. Make sure children have passed their medical exams and are in good physical health, pay attention to regular sleep (including a set bedtime and wake-up time each day), limit screen time (including putting away phones) and encourage children to do gentle movement every day — walking, playing, stretching.

Take advantage of available resources. Pediatricians and primary care providers can be an excellent resource for screening and information. Online, I always encourage families to seek out reliable resources, including the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Resource Centers.

If your child’s stress or anxiety is interfering with their life (for example, school, the ability to enjoy friends or family or their activities), contact your child’s doctor, school counselor, or find a mental health professional for an assessment.

If you, your child, or someone you know is thinking about suicide or self-harm, call or text 988, the national Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, or go to the nearest hospital emergency room .

Amy Lynn Meadows, MD, is director of the division of child and adolescent psychiatry at Kentucky Children’s Hospital.

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