When we think of back-to-school lists, things like notebooks, pencils, and doctor check-ups may come to mind. But have you ever considered what things need to be included to address our children’s mental health? Here are some ideas to include for an emotional back-to-school list:
Check In With Your Child
At the start of school, make sure you regularly check in with your child. Take it beyond the casual “How was school today?” and really ask questions about the good and the bad of their experience. It’s so important to create a home culture were both positive and negative emotions are validated, so be sure to let your child know that it’s okay to have big, hard feelings.
Ask To Dig Deeper
Sometimes, children need some help identifying their own internal experiences. If you notice signs that a son or daughter is having a hard time (like withdrawing from normal activities, crying, or tummy aches), don’t be afraid to say something like, “hey, you seem a little upset today. Can you help me understand how you’re feeling?” If they struggle to articulate their feelings in words, you can also have them point to where they are feeling these big things in their body. It is common for stomach aches, headaches, and other physical symptoms to occur when emotional distress is high. Make sure to validate them by saying “that sounds really tough, and I’m so sorry you went through that.”
Use A Transitional Object
For some children, it’s helpful to have a physical object to carry to school and then take home with them to create some sort of continuity and bring a sense of comfort. Especially in the early ages (like Kindergarten and 1st grade), a transitional object or a special ritual with Mom or Dad (like what is described in the children’s book “The Kissing Hand”) can be extremely helpful.
Breathe and Be Kind To Yourself
Parenting is tough enough, and it’s really tough to see our kids struggle. It can be hard to ensure all our children’s needs are met as well as take care of all of our other responsibilities. Breathe, practice patience with yourself, and just do your absolute best.