How to Mentally Help Your Child During the New School Year

RICHLAND, WA-

Now that school is starting up, its important to recognize the struggles kids are facing and support them through it all. Courtney Salazar specializes in child and teen therapy, and says among younger kids she's seen a lot of fear, and in teens, a lack of socialization. She says to try and give them choices.

"Making sure that you provide choices as much as you can even if they are little. And that could look like setting up the routine for school. Like, 'Do you want to eat breakfast at 8:30 or 8?' As long as you're okay with both of those choices, that's great. Because they are getting a choice in something. It doesn't necessarily always matter what it is but it's empowering kids, empowering teens to have control over something when we're living in a life where there is a major lack of control," said Salazar.

Whitney Galstad has been a school counselor for ten years, and she says that kids may be feeling big emotions right now.

"There's a lot going on that we can't control. That's where the anxiety comes from, that's where the fear comes from--adults feel that too. There's a lot going on that we can't control. But guess what? We get to choose what we focus on," said Galstad.

Attitude is everything.

"What I really encourage parents to do for little ones right now is to really watch our own attitudes because its going to affect how they see the school year," said Salazar. "Addressing things that might be a challenge. What are you nervous about? What are you scared for with the upcoming school year? But then also what's really kind of cool is to ask kids; 'Whats been kind of cool about this COVID-19 lifestyle that we've been living?'"

Even though schools may be closed right now, it opens up the possibility for growth.

"This is gonna be a year for a lot of grace, and a lot of patience. But it is going to be a year of growth. And I think we are going to come out of this better, stronger, and more resilient than before," said Galstad.

Since kids aren't socializing like they would be in a school setting, Courtney says kids may act a little bit different.

"They're at home, more or less alone. And if you're working, you're not engaging with them as much as somebody at school, or a playground of kids would be at school. And so what parents are noticing is that their kids are more needy. Its not necessarily that their more needy, its that that socialization, that extroverted playfulness isn't being met like it traditionally is," said Salazar.

One of the most important things you can do is make intentional time with kids.

"I know that seems kind of silly because we're home all day--a lot of us with our kids. But it's really just carving out time to sit down and just talk about those emotions. Have the kids give a name to how they're feeling. And validating that. Yes, this is hard, yes, its okay to be frustrated. It's okay to be scared," said Galstad.

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