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Back to School: Addressing your child's mental health

A licensed counselor and a primary care doctor provide insight into how to check in with your child's mental health before school starts.

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Kids are about to go back to school, and while first day jitters may be common, there could be other factors affecting your child's mental health.

Josaylon Henry, a licensed counselor and the Chief Clinical Officer at WellStone, said that kids have been through a lot. "Kids are resilient…they tend to bounce back from things, even things such as things that have been happening in the world as it relates to school shootings, even the pandemic. They just are very resilient, but then there's the subset of kids who find it very difficult to move forward from such tragedies."

And these tragedies can have an impact on a child's mental health.

"We see where there's poor academic performances, they're struggling with social issues, having some anxiety, having some depression and things of that nature. We know that it's very important to have open and honest conversations with kids when they're experiencing these types of issues of concern," Henry said.

When children are withdrawing and are not interested in activities they once enjoyed, it's a good time for guardians to check in.

"As a parent or caregiver... ask questions about how they're feeling and how they're doing and then if necessary, seek out the professional mental health providers in terms of assisting them through those times," Henry said.

Dr. Channing Brown, a primary care doctor, encourages parents to set aside time for family dinner. "It can really be beneficial for families and for children as they go back to the school year in terms of having times to connect and having times to be able to be there and have a listening ear, for your child and provide support and also to stay connected to their children, as we go back into the school year and talk to them about important topics.” 

Dr. Brown adds that it's important for parents to discuss big transitions."[Let's say] there's a divorce in the family or a recent death in the family. Talking with your child's pediatrician or primary doctor about whether there will be resources or treatment options to help with them coping with these changes can be really helpful before they become a problem that's interfering with their daily life and their schoolwork.”

And Henry shares that counselors from WellStone are within several schools in Huntsville, available for kids who need the support.

Ultimately, Henry urges kids to, "...be okay with talking about how they're feeling, to be honest with what's going on with them. And it's okay to feel like you're not okay."     

RELATED: Back to School: How guardians can check in on their mental health.

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