What are some things you think parents should consider about Back to School time? Nika Fesler, MA, LLPC
- Wow does the summer fly by! Summer time tends to be less structured than the school year so August is a great time to start thinking about adding some structure to your child’s day. It can be as simple as enforcing bedtimes and night routines as well as consistent morning wake up times and breakfast. If your child is a bit older, check in on summer reading or putting together a school year chore chart.
- If your student has struggled with ADHD or other behavioral issues at school in the past this is a good time to check in with their assigned teacher and even plan a little extra orientation time to orient your child with the classroom(s) and teacher(s) they will have in the upcoming year.
- For children who struggle with flexibility and change, the more you can prepare them the better. This can mean developing some strategies for focus and dealing with stress and communicating those strategies to teachers! I would highly recommend reading this book: Lost at School: Why Our Kids with Behavioral Challenges are Falling Through the Cracks and How We Can Help Them By Ross W. Greene Ph.D
What emotional or social skills should parents look for that are important to their children’s academic success? One skill that I find to be very useful is the ability to ask for help. Independence is highly valued in our culture and that is communicated to children from a very young age. I find that many of the young clients I have worked with struggle to ask for help because they believe they need to solve problems on their own. When discussing this with your child, it can be helpful to provide some examples and even practice how to ask a teacher for help. Another skill that can be helpful for many age groups is understanding social boundaries. For elementary aged children it is helpful to understand personal space boundaries and why they are important and necessary. As kids get older understanding how to share friendships and admit mistakes can be critical in the development of healthy friendships and positive social engagement.
Kids will be kids. How can parents tell the difference between typical naughtiness, grumpiness, shyness, etc. and needing help? This can be a tough call sometimes. It is true that kids are prone to be more moody and grumpy, and that can grow with adolescence as more hormones are thrown into the mix. Some things to look for in terms of what might be an issue to consult with a therapist about:
- Isolation that is persistent and lasting for the majority of the day. If your child is spending the majority of their day in their bedroom sleeping and is reluctant to engage in social activities when invited, this might be something to consult with a mental health professional about.
- Self-Harm in any form. For younger children this might look like rubbing an eraser on the skin to cause pain or biting.
- Showing aggression towards other students or family members with increasing intensity. This may start with aggressive language and can evolve to throwing toys or objects (for younger ages) or getting in physical altercations at school.
- Significant changes in grades and/or performance in school.
Even if viewed as unnecessary, is there a value in preventative measures? Absolutely! Some of the most important work we do is preventative and coping ahead of time is one of the skills that is emphasized in our DBT (Dialectical behavior therapy) program here at AFBHS. I like to think of therapy the same way I think about learning to tie shoes or brush teeth or know where Band-Aids are before we cut our knees. We learn to brush our teeth to keep them clean and healthy, not as a result of a cavity. Mental health could be viewed in a similar way, learning skills to create a mentally supportive and helpful environment for a child can aid them in knowing what to do when problems arise throughout their lives.
In your experience what has made parents hesitant to seek therapy for their young children and what do you think they should know? A common message I have heard from parents is a fear that they will have to put their child on medication if they seek counseling. Something that is important to know is that counselors, social workers and even psychologists do not prescribe medication. We will happily talk to you about your thoughts or concerns about medication, but we are not doctors and prescribing medication is not something we do. Another concern that has come up in the past is the fear of telling a stranger all kinds of private information and worrying that they will be judged. It is important to know that many counselors, social workers and psychologists have children themselves. At AFBHS we work every day create a non-judgmental environment for our clients. We view parents as critically important to the therapy process and experts on their children. Compassionate counseling with a space safe from judgement is a part of our philosophy and we think that all parents are doing the best they can.
What kind of kids can benefit from DBT group? DBT (dialectical behavior therapy) skills group is a great for kids who are struggling with Emotion regulation (or even identifying emotions to begin with), arguing with siblings and parents regularly, struggling with friendships at school, and or having significant and frequent meltdowns. Our kids DBT group is for ages 7-10 and we will learn how to practice breathing, mindfulness and cope with life when it is harder than we like. Parents come to group with their children and get to learn everything their kids are learning at the same time. If you notice that your child is very sensitive or reactive and is having trouble consistently with behaviors at school, our DBT program might be something to consider. Don't miss future posts. Subscribe to our blog and share posts.