Back-to-school mental health tips for your child

Parents helping son with homework

Going back to school can be stressful for both parents and students. In addition to adjusting to new schedules and shopping for school supplies, kids often face anxiety over reentering the classroom. Here are some ways parents can help students (of all ages) navigate those emotions as they head back-to-school.

“While parents receive extensive support, and are familiar with preparing their children’s physical health for going back to school,” Ian Tong, M.D., Chief Medical Officer at Doctor On Demand and Clinical Assistant Professor (affiliated) at Stanford University Medical School, tells BlackDoctor.org.

“They may not always feel as prepared to address a vital component of their child’s well-being–their emotional health,” he continued. “Often, this isn’t a topic covered — parents may not realize the importance of addressing mental health on their child’s well-being.”

Dr. Tong shares six ways parents can prep their children mentally for the school year ahead.

Plan and practice your routine. “There can be a lot to keep track of when school starts,” said Tong.  “Practicing the daily routine can help your family make a smooth transition.” For older children, “a part of their routine could include setting aside time each day for homework.” This will prevent kids from building a nasty habit of procrastinating. Tong also advises, getting back on a schedule at least a week before school starts if “bedtime enforcement has become less strict over the summer.”

Curb anxiety before it starts. “It’s normal for children to have first day jitters,” said Tong. One way to combat that anxiety is to “visit their school and meet with the teachers. You can also create a simple goodbye ritual to help reassure your child.”

Encourage them to set goals. For younger children, Tong suggests “preparing them for their first day of school by watching videos together”  that explain what to expect on their first day. For older children, “talking through their goals is a great way to help them prepare mentally.” Because what’s better motivation than having something to look forward to?

For older children, discuss mental health.“School can often be overwhelming as children navigate new friendships and balance homework and other obligations,” added Tong. By encouraging your child to share their concerns, says Dr. Tong, you can provide validation and give them the support they need.

Encourage engagement in fun activities, outside of school.While “homework and school obligations are important,” allowing your child “to do what they love will give them an emotional boost,” explained Tong. “You can also help them from overextending themselves by setting limits and giving them down time.”

Put an emphasis on spending some quality time together. Above all else, putting aside time to spend together is a “great way to reconnect,” he said. “You can engage in activities like taking a walk, playing a game, or just talking about your day.”

Alleviating the stress of back to school is important for parents and their students. Incorporate these tips to help ensure everyone has a successful school year.