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10 Back to School Mental Health Tips

Brannon Patrick

October 18, 2023

Back to school season brings many exciting changes, but it’s also a time when students may need additional support for their mental health. The academic and social challenges that accompany returning to the classroom sometimes create pressure that can lead to feelings of anxiety or depression, so it’s critical to make sure your children have the tools and strategies they need to navigate around these obstacles and continue thriving.

Therapy Utah’s adolescent and child therapy services can match your child with a therapist whose methods and communication style support their needs, but we also have this list of tips you can use to promote better mental health for students at the start of each new school year. Read on to build a plan for every student in your family that will help them find success this fall.

Parent creating schedule for school age child

Tip 1: Develop a Routine

A stable routine provides a framework for predictability and security. Establishing consistent times for sleep, meals, and homework can tremendously decrease anxiety levels. Sleep, especially, plays a pivotal role in cognitive processes and emotional stability. By setting specific hours for tasks and rest, students are more likely to feel in control and less overwhelmed.

  • Try using day planners to block out time for sleep, meals, homework, and other key tasks.

Tip 2: Practice Good Nutrition

What we consume directly influences our cognitive capacity and mood. A balanced diet rich in essential nutrients and vitamins can boost brain power, aiding concentration and memory. Moreover, specific foods, like those rich in omega-3 fatty acids, have been linked to reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety. Prioritizing nutrition equips students with the physical and mental energy needed for academic pursuits.

  • Develop a meal plan that focuses on leafy greens, lean proteins rich in omega-3s, and whole grains.
School age child smiling while playing basketball

Tip 3: Encourage Regular Exercise

Physical activity is a potent antidote for stress, anxiety, and depression. Regular exercise releases endorphins, the body’s natural mood lifters. Additionally, it fosters better sleep patterns and enhances cognitive functions. Whether it’s a brisk walk or a game of basketball, integrating movement into daily life can significantly uplift your child’s mental state.

  • If your child struggles to find the motivation to exercise on their own, consider placing them on a team or in a school athletic club. This can also be a great way for them to make new friends, which may address the root causes of any social anxiety they’re experiencing.
School age children talking during after school club

Tip 4: Establish a Support System

The power of community cannot be overemphasized. Having a network of trusted friends, family members, or counselors provides a safety net. These individuals can offer advice, a listening ear, or simple companionship when it’s needed.

  • Encourage your child to make friends by participating in extracurricular activities where they’ll meet others with similar interests. This often creates a foundation of understanding that facilitates deeper and more meaningful connections over time.

Tip 5: Prioritize Time Management

A substantial source of stress for students is the pressure of juggling multiple tasks. By mastering the art of time management, this pressure can be alleviated.

  • Encourage your child to use tools like calendars, planners, and time-saving apps. This can help them structure study sessions, allocate break times, and avoid last-minute cramming for tests.
School age child talking to mother on couch for support

Tip 6: Encourage Open Communication About Feelings

Try to create a culture where your children feel free to discuss emotions and talk about what’s causing them stress at school. Whether it’s academic pressures, social challenges, or personal matters, open dialogue can pave the way for solutions and coping strategies.

  • Feeling understood and supported reduces feelings of isolation, making challenges more manageable. Take a little time each day to check in with your child and ask them how their day was—this simple act can make a big difference!
School age child on smartphone while lying on couch

Tip 7: Limit Screen Time

While technology has undeniably added value to our lives, excessive screen time is detrimental to mental health—especially in young people. Overindulgence can lead to sleep disturbances, feelings of disconnection, and increased stress.

  • Allocating specific hours for non-screen activities can rejuvenate the mind and foster genuine interpersonal connections. Do your best to keep your child’s screen time within reasonable limits.

Tip 8: Practice Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques

Mindfulness practices like meditation and deep breathing exercises can be effective for managing stress. These techniques encourage a focused awareness of the present, reducing the cascading effects of anxiety and promoting a sense of calm.

  • Consider practicing a few deep breathing exercises with your child each morning before school starts. This will also give you an opportunity to bond with them and make them feel more comfortable opening up to you if there’s a problem they need to share.

Tip 9: Create a Comfortable Study Environment

A conducive study environment plays a critical role in academic success. Well-organized spaces that are free from distractions can significantly reduce anxiety.

  • Help your child organize an area where they can study without interruptions. Personalizing this environment with comfortable furniture, adequate lighting, and perhaps some calming music or plants can further enhance their focus.
School age child talking to child therapist during session

Tip 10: Seek Professional Help When Needed

It’s essential to recognize when professional intervention might be needed. Mental health professionals are equipped to provide coping strategies, therapeutic techniques, and sometimes necessary interventions. Seeking help is not a sign of weakness but rather an acknowledgment of the importance of well-being.

  • Reach out to Therapy Utah to match your child with a qualified and experienced therapist. We can provide the structure and strategies they need to open up about the challenges they may be facing at school and take a proactive approach to addressing them.

Helping Your Child Start the School Year Strong

Mental health support can do more than improve your child’s social life and academic performance—it can also reduce their stress, contributing to better physical health and long-term happiness. Use what you’ve learned above to check in with your child, find out what kind of support they need, and provide them with the connections and opportunities that allow them to thrive.

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