With children and young people returning to or starting a new school/college, we thought it imperative to share an article focusing on children, young people and parent/guardian mental health and wellbeing.
Returning to school, starting a new school, going to college or university can be a big life change for children and young people, as well as their parents and caregivers. It can be a big transition with different aspects to navigate, such as making new friends, adjusting to new teachers and living away from home. Although this can all be exciting, it can also be difficult to adjust, particularly as the changes can cause anxiety.
Children and Young People
Many things make education fun, including seeing your friends regularly, learning new skills and knowledge and developing good relationships with others. However, it can also be a difficult time for children and young people, particularly for those that find it tricky to socialise and make friends and for those that are being isolated and bullied. Childline state that the following can cause different feelings for children returning to school, either following illness or due to other time away from school including after the summer holidays:
- Wondering what the school will be like when they go back
- Seeing friends again
- Being bullied
- Keeping safe
- Starting a new routine
- Catching up with work.
Childline provide the following tips to children to help them adjust and settle in:
- Write down worries and hopes
- Ask questions
- Be as prepared as possible for going back to school
- Use a mood journal
Children should be encouraged to take their time to adjusting back to school or settling into a new routine as this can take a while.
Childline is a great source of advice with tips and advice:
- For making friends
- Moving schools
- Overcoming bullying
Parents and Caregivers
For parents and caregivers, there is a lot to consider for children and young people – you may feel worried and anxious about them returning to school due to bullying.
It is difficult to support someone you care about when they are experiencing bullying, due to the emotions you will both be feeling – you want to be able to protect them and feel hurt that somebody could be mean to them. The Anti-Bullying Alliance has some useful information. They state that the role of a parent/caregiver is to listen, be calm and provide reassurance that the situation can get better. It is also important not to be dismissive – something that appears trivial to an adult can often be the “end of the world” for a child or young person, and their feelings should be taken seriously.
Furthermore, looking after your own mental health and wellbeing is as vital as looking after your child’s wellbeing. Young Minds state parents can look after themselves by:
- Asking for help when you need it
- Not struggling alone
- Taking time for yourself
- Not blaming yourself, e.g. for behaviour problems
- Seeking professional help from a GP or mental health charity if needed
Doing the above looks after and enhances your own wellbeing, which in turn will better support your child.
Other reasons why parents and caregivers may struggle with “back to school” is because their child is growing up – they may becoming more distant as they navigate through different changes and they may be living away from home to attend university, for example. This can bring both positive and negative feelings. You may feel proud of the person they are developing into, but sad because of how fast life progresses. There are various articles focusing on how to overcome this sadness. Here, one focuses on “empty nest syndrome”. A good piece of advice included is opening up to potentially new ideas for the future, such as taking on new hobbies and interests.
Parents/caregivers that experience mental health problems may struggle to adapt more so than the average person. Mind provide useful information for parenting and mental health. It is important to remember that all parents face challenges and it is also important to recognise that those living with a mental health problem may have more concerns/difficulties. As Mind state, this may include:
- Difficulties coping with the challenges of parenting
- Worrying about how your mental health could affect your child
- Dealing with other people’s negative ideas and misconceptions about mental health problems
- Finding it harder to seek help.
- Being unable to work because of your mental health problem
- Worrying about your child having to go into care.
If you need more advice and guidance on parenting and mental health, we encourage you to look at Mind’s advice and guidance (see end of article).
Why is it so important to improve mental health and wellbeing? Well, the Children’s Society published that:
- 1 in 6 children are likely to have a mental health problem
- 1 in 4 17-19 year olds are likely to have a mental health problem
- 66% said they couldn’t get support when they needed it
The above statistics are alarming. It places huge emphasis on the importance of supporting children and young people’s wellbeing. Tips from the NHS to achieve this include:
- Being there to listen
- Supporting them through difficulties
- Staying involved in their life
- Encouraging their interests
- Taking what they say seriously
- Building positive routines
We encourage children, young people, parents, and caregivers to check out the following sources of information: