Essential back-to-school mental health tips: A parent’s guide

back-to-school mental health tips

As the back-to-school season approaches, parents are not only focused on getting their children ready with new backpacks and school supplies, but also on supporting their mental well-being. The transition from summer to school can be overwhelming for many students (and parents!), and it’s crucial for parents to provide the necessary support and also not project their own anxieties onto their children because of course, we have our own too! Let’s dive into some essential back-to-school mental health tips and discover the importance of supporting mental well-being around this time.

The importance of mental health support during the back-to-school season

The back-to-school season is a time of excitement, anticipation, and sometimes anxiety for both children and parents. It’s important to recognize the impact that this transition can have on a child’s mental health. The entry into a new year, pressure to perform academically, make new friends, and adapt to new routines can be overwhelming, leading to stress, anxiety, and even depression.

As parents, it is essential to prioritize your child’s mental well-being during this time. By providing adequate support, you can help your child navigate these challenges and set them up for a successful school year.

Signs of mental health issues in children and teenagers

It’s crucial for parents to be aware of the signs that their child may be experiencing mental health issues. While some children may openly express their feelings, others may struggle to articulate their emotions. Look out for changes in behaviour, mood swings, withdrawal from activities they used to enjoy, changes in appetite or sleep patterns, and academic decline.

If you notice any of these signs, it’s important to have open and honest conversations with your child. Encourage them to express their feelings and let them know that it’s okay to ask for help. Remember, early intervention is key to addressing mental health issues and preventing them from escalating.

Tips for creating a supportive home environment

Creating a supportive home environment is crucial for your child’s mental well-being. Start by setting clear expectations and routines that provide a sense of structure and stability. This can help alleviate anxiety and create a sense of predictability for your child.

My biggest tip here is to encourage open communication in your household. Regularly check in with your child about their day, their feelings, and any concerns they may have. Make sure they feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and emotions without fear of judgment or criticism. Every child is different, but our daughter loves to open up and talk about her worries at bedtime which is usual for children so be sure to factor in extra buffer time at bedtime for a chat so you’re not having to rush things along.

In advance of the new school term, thinking about how you can promote healthy study-life balance by setting aside dedicated time for relaxation, hobbies, and family activities. This will help your child recharge and reduce stress levels. Additionally, make sure your child has a quiet and comfortable space for studying and completing homework.

Communicating with your child about their mental health

Open and honest communication is key when it comes to supporting your child’s mental health. Create a safe space where your child feels comfortable discussing their emotions and experiences. Encourage them to express their feelings without judgment and assure them that their emotions are valid.

Ask open-ended questions to encourage dialogue and active listening. Instead of asking, “Are you okay?” try asking, “How are you feeling about starting school?” This allows your child to share more about their thoughts and emotions.

Top tip: Kids seem to love opening up whilst in transit – for us it’s our daily dog walk but for your child, it may be whilst you’re driving them somewhere in the car or another everyday activity. Look out for what this is for your child and keep it in your back pocket as an opportunity to talk through things.

Avoid dismissing or invalidating your child’s feelings. Even if their concerns seem trivial or irrational to you, it’s important to acknowledge and validate their emotions. By doing so, you show your child that their feelings are valued and that you are there to support them.

Building a strong support network for your child

In addition to providing support at home, it’s important to help your child build a strong support network. Encourage them to foster positive relationships with their friends and teachers. Friends and mentors can provide valuable emotional support and help your child navigate challenges they may face at school.

You can also explore extracurricular activities or clubs that align with your child’s interests. These activities can provide a sense of belonging and help your child develop new friendships and hobbies outside of the classroom. Be sure to find something that creates a spark in them rather than forcing them into something they have no interest in just because it suits your schedule. Kids pick up on that one pretty quickly as they become older and savvier!

back-to-school mental health tips

Resources for mental health support

There are various resources available to support your child’s mental health during the back-to-school season. Familiarize yourself with the guidance counselors and mental health professionals at your child’s school. They can provide valuable support and resources if your child is struggling.

Here is a list of children’s mental health support resources in the UK and the US, along with their website addresses:

United Kingdom:

  1. YoungMinds (UK):
  2. NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children):
  3. Childline:
  4. MindEd:
  5. Place2Be:

United States:

  1. National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI):
  2. Child Mind Institute:
  3. National Institute of Mental Health – Child and Adolescent Mental Health Website:
  4. Mental Health America – Children and Youth :
  5. American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP):

Consider attending workshops or seminars focused on mental health and parenting. These educational opportunities can provide valuable insights and strategies for supporting your child’s emotional well-being.

Everyday tools for supporting children with back-to-school mental health

Here we share some of our favourite practical and effective ways to support children’s mental well-being during this critical time:

  1. Positive Reinforcement: Offer praise and positive reinforcement for their efforts and accomplishments, both in school and at home. This boosts their confidence and helps them feel valued.
  2. Mindfulness Techniques: Teach your child simple mindfulness techniques, such as deep breathing or grounding exercises, to help them manage stress and stay present.
  3. Encourage Physical Activity: Regular physical activity, like playing outside or participating in sports, can reduce stress and boost mood by releasing endorphins.
  4. Limit Screen Time: Set reasonable limits on screen time, including social media and video games, as excessive use can contribute to stress and sleep disturbances.
  5. Art and Creativity: Encourage artistic expression through drawing, coloring, or journaling, which can serve as a therapeutic outlet for emotions.
  6. Role-Playing: Use role-playing to help your child practice social situations or interactions they may encounter at school, boosting their confidence.
  7. Read Books about School: Read age-appropriate books about dealing with back-to-school stress together, which can help them feel understood and less anxious.
  8. Model Coping Strategies: Be a positive role model by demonstrating healthy coping strategies for dealing with stress and challenges.
  9. Celebrate Achievements: Celebrate both big and small achievements, encouraging a growth mindset and resilience.
back-to-school mental health tips

Bonus tip: sugar-free chewing gum as a back-to-school stress buster!

Did you know that chewing sugar-free gum can be a surprisingly effective and simple way to help alleviate back-to-school stress in children? Studies have shown that the act of chewing gum can reduce stress and anxiety by promoting relaxation and increasing alertness. The repetitive chewing motion can serve as a form of stress relief, providing a mild distraction from anxious thoughts and worries.

Additionally, chewing gum has been linked to improved cognitive function and focus, which can be beneficial during demanding school days. Sugar-free gum is also a healthier alternative to sugary snacks, preventing potential energy crashes and helping maintain a stable mood throughout the day. By incorporating sugar-free gum as a stress-relief tool, parents and caregivers can provide their children with a handy and enjoyable way to manage stress and enhance their overall well-being during the back-to-school period.

Self-care for parents during the back-to-school season

As a parent, your well-being is just as important as your child’s. It’s essential to prioritize self-care to ensure you have the emotional capacity to support your child effectively.

Take time for yourself each day, even if it’s just a few minutes of quiet reflection or engaging in an activity you enjoy. Set boundaries and avoid overextending yourself. Recognize your own limits and ask for help when needed.

Maintain a healthy lifestyle by eating nutritious meals, getting regular exercise, and getting enough sleep. These self-care practices will help you manage stress and maintain a positive mindset.

Seeking professional help when needed

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, our children may require professional help to address their mental health needs. If you notice persistent or severe changes in your child’s behaviour, it may be necessary to seek the assistance of a mental health professional.

Reach out to your child’s school counselor or pediatrician for recommendations and referrals. These professionals can help assess your child’s needs and provide appropriate interventions or therapy.

Remember, seeking professional help is not a sign of failure as a parent. It is a proactive step towards ensuring your child receives the support they require to thrive.

The role of schools in supporting mental health

Schools play a vital role in supporting students’ mental health. Many educational institutions have dedicated resources and programs in place to address the mental well-being of their students.

Stay informed about the mental health initiatives and support services offered by your child’s school. Encourage open communication between yourself and the school staff to ensure your child’s needs are being met.

Advocate for the inclusion of mental health education in the school curriculum. By promoting mental health awareness and providing students with the tools to manage their emotions, schools can contribute to creating a nurturing and supportive environment for all students.


Supporting your child’s mental health during the back-to-school season is crucial for their overall well-being and academic success. By establishing open lines of communication, creating a supportive home environment, and seeking professional help when needed, parents can empower their children to navigate the challenges they may face.

Remember, every child is unique, and the strategies that work for one may not work for another. Be patient, flexible, and adaptable in your approach. As parents, we have the incredible opportunity to be a pillar of strength and a source of unconditional love for our children during this period and throughout their life journey also.

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