Supporting your child’s mental health

Coronavirus

Helping children navigate their feelings as schools reopen

NORTHWEST ARKANSAS, (KNWA/KFTA) — In a few weeks, families will be setting their alarms and getting ready for the first day of school. Some are anxious about being able to smoothly transition back into the classroom.

Certified Cognitive and Behavioral Therapist, Kati Wells said the first step is acknowledging that this school year will look different and to stay flexible to the changes that may come.

Kids will be wearing face coverings, teachers and staff will be wearing masks, some with face shields and they will also have to practice social distancing at school.

Wells said you want to have an open conversation with your child about how they are feeling about these changes and address their concerns.

Are they excited about school? Are they worried about being safe?

She said families kind of got a trial run earlier this year when in-person classes ended. Wells advises parents to take a look back at the challenges their child faced and where they excelled during that time and figure out how to best handle the obstacles if they resurface.

It’s also important to know the mood temperature of your child.

“A good way to do this is to ask them, on a scale of one to ten zero being completely happy with no issues and ten being the absolute worse emotional day you’ve had, where were you today? Let them give you a number and that will help you track how they are doing during the week,” said Wells.

Parents should go over the guidelines the school will be following with their kids to reassure them about the safety measures being taken to keep them safe.

Know the coping strategies that work for you and your family, whether it’s taking a long walk, pausing for some deep breaths, or 30 mins of downtime.

Wells said parents should try to foster a positive and supportive environment.

“If you have a negative thought, I want you to come to the negative thought with something a little more balanced, the silver lining. So have your negative thought, but here is the silver lining here is the positive one.”

Wells said to look out for moments your child feels overloaded with stress, a change in appetite,  trouble sleeping, or other behavior changes.

When it comes to communication, if your child does not feel comfortable speaking to you, ask them who they prefer speaking to, whether it’s a teacher, mentor or another family member. Be open to that dynamic so that your child has someone they can turn to when times are tough.

Wells reminds parents that it is normal to have anxiety about going back to school but if it starts to disrupt their daily activities, you might want to consider speaking to a professional.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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