Helping Kids Overcome Back-to-School Butterflies

The kids are back in school, and maybe you've noticed they're not quite their usual selves. Mental health professionals say that's not unusual.

Dr. Taylor Porter of Stormont-Vail West in Topeka says a new school year is like starting a new job every year, with new expectations and demands. Plus, he says some behaviors kids encounter in the halls would get most adults fired in the workplace.

Dr. Porter says the first thing parents can do to help with the transition is remember it's stressful. He says sometimes parents want it to go well so much, they forget it can be hard.

Once aware of the stress, open the lines of communication. Dr. Porter says to talk to the kids about what's going on and encourage them to say what their worries are.

If you think your child is having trouble adjusting to school, look for signs like falling grades, missed homework assignments or unusual behaviors. Dr. Porter says that might include not talking to friends or dropping out of their usual activities.

Dr. Porter says it's natural for older kids to start detaching from their parents, but if you can't get them to open up about what's going on and the signs become more extreme, like not eating or skipping school, you might want to seek out help from a school counselor, pediatrician or mental health professional. Dr. Porter says you don't want to overreact to every mood swing, but the more extreme the reaction, the more quickly you should get on top of it.

Dr. Porter says facilities like Stormont-Vail West offer child mental health services. In Topeka, he says Family Service and Guidance Center is another good resource for families.


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