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  • Writer's pictureDr Beth Mosley

Expert reveals how to help your child beat the back to school blues - Mirror Article


The Independent - How can I improve my teenagers low mood?




The new term can bring challenges for kids and teens, so discover how you can help with this back to school mental health toolkit from psychologist and child behavioural expert Dr Beth Mosley.


The kids are back to school this week and if your mornings are once again a flurry of lunch boxes, uniforms and unwashed PE kits, you certainly won’t be alone.

But amid all the hubbub, the end of the summer hols and the start of a new school year can be a tough time for children of all ages. “When kids go back to school they face lots of change – new teachers or a new class, for example,” says Dr Beth Mosley, a clinical psychologist and child behavioural expert with more than 20 years of experience working with families and young people.


“They have to deal with things outside of their control. This is difficult for everyone, but for children in particular, and can lead to stress, anxiety and sadness – the back to school blues, in other words.” School can bring certain pressures. “There’s academic pressure to do well and get good grades, which can be hard for those who struggle with learning. Then peer pressure can be tough too.


“It’s complicated juggling so many relationships with classmates, friends and perhaps others who aren’t very nice to them,” says Dr Mosley. There are more instances of school stress in youngsters after the pandemic. “Many kids are playing catch-up, having missed out on normality during lockdown, be that in academic learning or social skills,” says Dr Mosley. Here, she shares the most common issues going back to school can bring – and the mental health toolkit to help your child through it.

 

Social Anxiety


There are challenges to being in a peer group. As a parent your job is to help your child build the skills and confidence they need to be friends with other children. The best way to do this is to get inside your child’s world. Acknowledge they may socialise online too, and that’s OK.


Don’t dismiss social media, but ask them about group chats and posts – who are they talking to, if they are happy with what is being said, if they feel included or excluded. Remove judgment and be curious. They’ll be more likely to talk to you about any issues.

Primary kids:

Speak to the school. Ask to buddy them up with another child, or enlist the teacher to help them build social skills. Organise play dates at home too.


Secondary kids:

Be present and available to take them to social events. Be willing to have their friends over too.

 

Academic Confidence


Children all have different strengths and weaknesses but often we focus on the things they’re not so good at, expending energy on trying to sort them out. However, when you have a child who’s struggling with something – maths, for example – they may be brilliant at something else, such as building a BMX track or relating to other people. Remind your child of their strengths. If you find your child struggles academically, of course you’ll want the school to provide the support they need – but make sure they do lots of the things they do well too, like sport or drama.


Encouraging other elements of their skill set, and the things they enjoy, will naturally build their confidence.


Primary:

Younger children can have sensory overload. Try dealing with whatever they are struggling with away from the bustle of school, in the calm of home.


Secondary:

Sport can help children learn that practice, taking risks, and even failure are all fine and just a natural part of life.

 

Bullying


Having a sense of belonging is key to good self-esteem. Bullying and discrimination can have a big impact on a young person’s mental health. Most schools have a zero tolerance policy on bullying. Don’t be afraid to talk to them so things are put in place to ensure it doesn’t continue.


These days, online bullying makes the issue more complex. What we know, however, is that if your child is being bullied online they’re probably being bullied in real life too. And vice versa. Firstly, young people need to hear that feeling upset is a very natural response to being bullied.


Be sympathetic, then help them understand that not all friendships will be like this. Being bullied can make a child fearful of making new relationships, in case the same thing happens again. But the key to feeling better is to find other opportunities to engage in positive relationships.


Help your child work out who the safest children are to build these relationships with.


Primary:

Chat to other parents in the playground and organise playdates.


Secondary:

Help your child take part in activities where they might find others with similar interests outside, as well as inside, school.

 

Separation


Going back to school means being away from family, and this can be hard. So agree something you and your child will do together when they get home from school in those first few weeks. Try to be more available on those evenings so they feel like they’ve still got a bit of you. Keep it simple – watch TV or play a game.


All they want is your undivided attention.


Primary:

Make something together, be it a block tower, biscuits or dinner.


Secondary:

Watch their favourite TV show with them and show an interest in what’s going on. Grab some popcorn and spend time together.

 

Sleep


It can be a challenge to get back into a sleep pattern, but not doing so can mean a tired first few weeks, which has a massive impact on children’s ability to cope with stress. If they're going to bed at 10pm, they won’t suddenly fall asleep at 8pm, so try bringing bedtime forward in small increments, getting them to bed 15minutes earlier each evening until they’re back in a reasonable routine.


Primary:

Put yourself back in charge of bedtime. Make it nice with bubble baths, stories and cuddles.


Secondary:

Talk to your adolescent about creating their own bedtime routine – what would they like to include? This could be a new book or a pillow spray. Reduce screen time after dinner to help them wind down.

 
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