7 tips to help your student's mental health

Mental Health
Posted at 5:10 PM, Aug 29, 2021

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Shopping, schedules, homework, new classes, there’s just a lot to get back to that students can struggle with. So we gathered some tips for your child to ease that transition.

The back to school process this year is something Tiffany Tarrant talked about with her son Hunter.

"He was extremely nervous, of course, something new people would be a little nervous about," said Tarrant.

He’s starting the sixth grade this fall at Clarence Middle School. Tarrant says she’s excited for her son to get back in the classroom after struggles with remote learning.

"He is autistic level one and has other diagnoses so for him to sit still on a computer screen and concentrate was frustrating," said Tarrant.

They started working with Compeer Buffalo in February of 2020 to help with his mental health.

"He’s starting to be more open with himself, which is really good and he talks to me a lot," said Tarrant.

She says the work on his mental health will​ be helpful to get him through the next few weeks, but Compeer isn't the only group offering help.​

Over at Catholic Charities, a team of in school workers put together tips for families to help students make this transition, while focusing on their mental health.

“I think parents, students alike, teachers staff are really feeling the anxiety of returning back to school," said Elise Pogorzelski, Assistant Director, LCSW, Assistant Director, Catholic Charities.

So here are 7 quick tips to help you:
1. Empathize and normalize your kid's feelings. Say things like, “I can totally understand about being nervous returning to school. There are so many things still uncertain.

One thing I learned is try and look at things from a different perspective, be more open minded to where a child is and how to approach them," said Tarrant.

2. Remain positive. Remind your child of the good and fun parts of school- seeing friends, making new friends, talking about their summer, meeting their teacher, etc.

3. Ask for help, contact the school before the first day. Ask if your child can see their classroom and meet their teacher. Find out who the social worker is and put your child on their radar.

4. Create a schedule with your child and give them a little control.

"It’s a lot of uncertainty right now, so maybe you’re allowing them to pick their breakfast in the morning, or their clothes," said Pogorzelski.

5. Attend any orientations or meetings. Gather information so you are prepared to answer your child’s questions about the new school year.

6. Anticipate anything that could cause stress and finally seven, practice coping skills. Lack of sleep (get to bed on time), running late in the morning (get up a few minutes earlier, lay out clothes the night before, pack lunches the night before), forgetting things (set out the night before- backpack, gym clothes, instrument, etc.)

"Transitional objects, something a child can bring to look at, a picture or a little rock, something they can look at to feel connected to their parents or to their home," said Pogorzelski.

Catholic charities also showed me some signs to watch out for over these next couple of weeks:

  • difficulty going to sleep or sleeping too much
  • irritability
  • changes in appetite
  • physical complaints like stomachaches or headaches
  • isolation – turning down opportunities to be with friends or spending a lot of time alone
  • fear of being separated from parents
  • resistance to talk about school and refusal to go to school