Summer is fully upon us. Plus 30-degrees temperatures and hanging out on the patio for hours, this is the life. But all good things must come to end, and come fall, parents and kids can become stressed and anxious. For parents, September is already hard, but tack on a teen that is transitioning to a new school--this could be a profoundly nerve racking time. I appreciate that some students transition seamlessly, and if that’s your student, read this article anyways, just for fun--on the patio with a cold drink, of course. So, what are a few ways to decrease that fall anxiety, fear and stress that some students will inevitably face this September?
Well, I asked Johanna Niles, a behavioural therapist, to shed some light on this question and share a few recommendations with us. Ms. Niles' first recommendation was for teachers to have check-in, first thing in the morning and checkouts at the end of the day. This ensures that student mental health is optimal at the start of the day and there is nothing in the way of them getting the best out of their time in school. Her next suggestion was for parents to make sure they visit the new school with their student, multiple times if possible. Connecting their child with a student that already goes to the new school is icing on the cake. Even a small sense of familiarity increases the comfort level for students.
This next one is for teachers: help your students achieve mental wellness by having a schedule. Ms. Niles points out that some students build up stress based on not knowing what's next. Filling this gap for them reassures them that there's nothing to worry about and gives them a sense of control. Give them a break--don't wait for recess or lunch. It may be a physical activity break, a quick icebreaker (see here for ice breaker ideas) or sending an energetic student to take the attendance to the office. Lastly, parents, start a count down. I notice my friends on social media counting the days of summer, but for students preparing to enter a new environment, try counting down the days till their new adventure begins. This technique depends on your student--it can relieve stress in some students and generate anxiety in others. So, I will leave the application to you. It’s tough to imagine filling days on the beach with talk of the inevitable first day of school, but just imagine, that short talk may allow your student to begin the school year empowered and ready to take on the challenges of a new school.
If this message resonates with you and you would like to share it with your school, make sure your school has programs in place to help teach students about coping with stress and building resiliency. Schools should and other community partners should consider hiring mental health speaker who can speak to students on their behalf.