How you can support your kids mentally this back to school

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We are living through some unprecedented times, and even before the global pandemic, teenagers have been historically prone to believing no one quite understands them or what they are going through. Here are a few tips and friendly reminders to get you into the right headspace for supporting your kids returning to school this fall.

  1. Encourage sharing 
    • While they may not immediately pour their hearts out to you, making a point to check in and ask how your kids are doing consistently is always a great place to start. The key here is to encourage conversation, not criticism. As a parent, it’s easy to react quickly with an opinion or advice when sometimes kids want to be heard. Maybe you can return to how you feel about whatever they are sharing at a later moment. Still, at this moment, if your immediate response is negative, your kids may begin to associate talking about their problems with you with negativity which is not an association either of you want. Try more general, less polarizing initial reactions. 
  2. Support but take a step back where you can 
    • Setting goals and routines create structure and help kids develop a sense of responsibility. That being said, adolescents crave independence, and finding a balance between the two can negate the oh-so-common trope of teens feeling the need to sneak and lie. 
  3. Work through conflict together. 
    • Working through conflict goes hand in hand with our last point. Sure, you are the parent, and your kids should just trust and listen to you. Still, you are raising them to be independent, functioning members of society who will inevitably have their own opinions that may differ from yours or get themselves into situations that may cause you to be angry. Sometimes it’s best to walk away. At the moment, it can be challenging for both of you to articulate your feelings appropriately, which creates further frustrations and leaves room for one of you to say something you probably don’t mean. 
  4. Set an example and take care of your own mental health 
    • Even when they seem worlds away, your kids are watching you. How you take care of yourself and handle situations paves the road. Keeping an open mind when discussing therapy, depression, and anxiety will positively affect how your kids handle these issues on their own. There is no shame in recognizing you need help and seeking it. However, if you express a feeling otherwise, if your kids need help, they may not ask for it, and whatever is troubling them will only snowball into a more significant issue later down the line. 
  5. Ask for their opinions. 
    • Every parent wants their children to have a good life and to find fulfillment. It’s easy to refer back to gaps in your experience or try to instill your exact definition of success or societal standards simply because you think it will help them achieve happiness. Still, the truth is what provides you joy will not always provide enjoyment for your kids. When you truly love someone, you learn to agree to disagree with them. Whether regarding religion, politics, the way they want to cut their hair, their pronouns, their sexuality, or their style, remember they have long lives ahead of them to either flourish with their choices or change their minds and need a shoulder for support.