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How To Boost Kids Well-being As They Head Back To School

As the pandemic drags on, it’s taking a toll on our kids as well as us. Research shows that anxiety and depression symptoms in kids have doubled and the current state of children’s mental health is a crisis, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. And now that students are heading back to school after winter break with COVID cases on the rise, many parents and kids are concerned and stressed.

A recent study on risk and resilience in more than 14-thousand middle and high school students finds that parental support is the most important variable across the board. “There is no stronger protective factor for kids than their primary caregiver's mental health,” explains study author and psychologist Suniya Luthar. When parents are upset or stressed, it negatively affects the way they parent, so parents have to take care of their own emotional well-being and mental health in order to help take care of their kids.

School counselor and therapist Phyllis L Fagell recommends these ways for adults to help themselves and the kids in their care:

  • Self-care isn’t just for your benefit- If it’s hard for you to make taking care of yourself a priority, think of it as something you’re doing to help your kid. The effects of your stress trickle down to your kids, so taking time to relax and unwind can help the whole family.
  • Talk about important things regularly with a “go-to” person- Find someone in your life who makes you feel “psychologically safe” and check in with them once a week to talk about things that really matter to you. As Luthar explains, “Parents must have on hand others who will put on their oxygen mask for them, because we as adults can also be gasping for air.”
  • Help your kid get the help they need, even if it’s not from you- It’s okay if you don’t feel like you can support your kid’s need alone, just help them find an adult they feel comfortable with.
  • Throw spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks- Stay flexible to find a strategy that works and let your child hear you stay hopeful, even if the first thing you try isn’t effective. Being calm, relaxed and loving, as well as stopping to listen to your kids can go a long way.

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