Back to school and young people’s mental health

a guide for parents

It is slowly coming to that time again! As the six week holiday comes to a close, everyone is readying themselves for ‘back to school’ mode. Preparing for the year ahead is important experience and a good habit to get into, as for anyone going into a new job role or career chapter. As well as this, young people can ease into studying and learning again, without causing too much of a shock to their system!

However, as some young people are excited to return to school, others may be having a different experience. Some young people and children may have mental health dips due to worries and stresses associated with the upcoming academic year.

Mental health issues going back to school

With or without considering the impact of COVID-19, continuing into the academic year can be scary . Also, for parents, it can be a worrying time if observing this change in their child and not knowing why or what to do. So what exactly could be causing this? Here are a few potential pointers:

  • Different classmates: This could cause worries associated with social anxiety. Worrying about not knowing anyone, and having to make new friends, including the possibility of losing old ones.
  • New teacher: Particularly for those who had a strong support system in place with their last teacher. A young person may feel apprehensive to get to know a new teacher, and worry they will not receive the same support.
  • Challenging school work: Each school year the work will naturally become harder. This of course may cause students to panic a little, and consider whether or not they are capable of keeping up. This is particularly the case for those starting at a new school (e.g. going into year 7).
  • Is it their final year?: A final year at school usually involves assessments that may impact their future education. At primary school, year 6 SAT’s (although more used to evaluate the school) can be very stressful. Secondary schools sometimes use SAT’s to split children into classes based on their abilities. For those in their final year of GCSE’s or A-levels, it may also mean prepping for college, university or job applications.
  • Fear of the unknown: Due to the pandemic, the usual schooling system has gone a bit out the window. No one is 100% sure if this year will also be broken up by home-schooling and lockdowns. Young people are going into their next school year without 100% clarity, which can cause stress and anxiety on it’s own.

How parents can help and why it helps

  • Communicate: It can be difficult for young people to share what is on their mind. Maybe it’s hard for younger kids to articulate what is bothering them, or older kids may fear they will be judged. If a parent begins this conversation, it may put a young person at ease, and help them explain why they feel stressed/anxious/down. Reassuring them that you are there to support them throughout may help them start the year more confidently.
  • Academic prep: Encourage your child to start doing an hour or so of school-related work a day. This could involve reading to them everyday if they’re younger. If they’re older, encourage them to recap on last year’s content and engage in independent study. This will help ease them into the year, and make them feel better prepared.
  • Physical prep: Sometimes getting the basics ready can assist this transition, and allows a child to be more prepared mentally a well as physically. This could involve getting the books and stationery they need, or organising a new uniform and lunch box etc. Trying to make it a fun day out can make the prospect of next year less daunting, and even exciting for kids.
  • School support: It might be a good idea to investigate what extra support the school can offer. Maybe 1-1 tutoring sessions could be helpful, or career’s advice for those at that stage. Highlighting to your child that the teacher is also there to help can encourage help-seeking behaviour – allowing for a much smoother year.
  • Diet and sleeping pattern: Something that may seem rather obvious but has been know to be very important is establishing a healthy diet and sleeping pattern. Allowing your child to have these set healthy habits from the start can really benefit them in the months to come. Especially as a balanced diet and consistent sleep can have a positive impact on a child’s mental health.

How can Brighter Life Therapy?

Sometimes, daily routines and techniques are not quite enough, and professional interventions are needed instead. For example, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and counselling are common ways to tackle these issues with professional help. Brighter Life Therapy provides fast access to CBT and counselling treatment, which you can read about here. If you are interested, please do not hesitate to contact us on 0118 40 50 108, or by emailing info@brighterlifetherapy.co.uk.

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