Jun 13, 2017, 4:44:13 PM CDT Aug 9, 2022, 1:40:08 PM CDT

5 back-to-school mental health tips

A clinical psychologist at Children's Health shares 5 back-to-school tips for students to succeed

5 children wearing backpacks walking down the sidewalk 5 children wearing backpacks walking down the sidewalk

The start of a new school year can be exciting, but it can also make your child feel anxious, especially if last year was rough or if they are entering a new school. While some back-to-school tips are widely known (like getting plenty of sleep and eating a healthy breakfast), there are other ways to start your child off with a positive mental health outlook for the year ahead.

Nicholas J. Westers, Psy.D., ABPP, a clinical psychologist at Children's Health℠ and Associate Professor at UT Southwestern, shares five ways to help your child start the school year off right and mitigate back-to-school stress when it comes to their mental health.

1.Start school with a fresh perspective

Kids can change a lot over a summer break. Sure, summer is just a couple of months long, but a lot can happen during that time (such as new Kids can change a lot over a summer break, even if it is just a couple of months long. New experiences, friends or even a growth spurt can change your child’s perspective. While returning to school may tempt kids to act the same as they did the year before, they can try to take on a new attitude. For example:

  • If they were mean to others, they could try to be nice.
  • If they complained, they could start looking for the good in people and situations.
  • If they made poor decisions last year, they could work to use better judgment.

Encourage your child that now is the time to start new habits and be intentional about their behavior.

2. Encourage kids to be true to themselves at school

Encourage your child to identify their values and stick to them – such as being kind to others, working hard at school and avoiding alcohol and drugs. Not everyone will like them, and that's okay.

Your child doesn’t have to try to impress friends and classmates, especially if doing so violates their values. Explain to your child that when they stick to their values, others will usually respect them even if they don't show it.

3. Tell your child the value of meaningful friendships

Positive, emotionally supportive friendships are important for your child’s mental health. The first couple of weeks back to school can feel chaotic socially as everyone tries to find their place. However, use this opportunity to remind your child that having just a couple of close friends can be more important and rewarding than having tons of surface-level friends.

4. Identify your child's strengths in and out of school

Starting the new school year with the goal of good grades is admirable and important, so do your best to set your child up for success. However, working hard at school and learning to recover from setbacks can be just as important in achieving academic goals.

Academic stress is common. If your child feels super stressed about school, schedule an occasional 10-to-15-minute worry time to allow them to be anxious. Then encourage them to refocus on their schoolwork so that anxiety doesn't control the rest of their week.

Grades are important, but not everything. Identify what else your child enjoys doing and encourage them to pursue that. For example, a student with lower grades who volunteers in the community still shows well-roundedness.

5. Support your kids emotionally

Many of the most successful and emotionally healthy kids at school know that their parents can be their greatest ally. Building these emotional bridges opens the door for you to talk with them about mental health. Let your child know they can tell you anything. Encourage them to share one good thing that happened at school each day. Help them succeed by continuing to be their biggest cheerleader.

Learn more

Children's Health is here to help as your child prepares for a new year at school. See more tips and advice for making this school year a healthy and happy one.

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