As parents work through their lists to make sure their kids have everything they need for the new school year, it would be helpful to add one more item: “How is their mental health?”
As they transition from summer holidays to school days, children are shifted into stressful situations and environments that require some adjustment in order to do well in school.
Likewise, whether a child begins to take on more responsibilities at home, becomes more independent at school, or decides important personal issues with friends, an increase in stress levels can be expected for everyone involved — including the parents. However, this time can also provide a good opportunity to prepare a son or daughter to deal with future stresses.

Parents may be surprised at how far our local school operations have progressed in over twenty years. However, it is imperative that the parent see the current school experience through the eyes of today’s students. Their perceptions of classmates, teachers, and schoolwork may not match the parent’s, and any understanding of their problems will remain limited until this gap is bridged.

A recent addition to the Community Extension Services staff, Stefan Stegmann, MSc, provides mental health services to elementary schools in Crawford County. She places a high value on the strong home-school relationship, and has worked with families and schools to that end to create successful environments for school-age children. She agrees that “as school adjustment progresses, schools and parents will benefit from working together and from communicating when there is positive behavior or concern” about a child’s behavior or health.

Even though a good part of a child’s day has moved on to a different place, parents should still see themselves on the front lines with their children. They will be more likely to learn about significant changes in their son or daughter’s behavior than anyone else.
For example: Do they complain of headaches and stomachaches more than usual? Do they seem agitated or impatient easily, or are they often tired? Are they frustrated and closed off to discussions about their day or their feelings? Parents may also begin to notice lower grades, incomplete homework, or antisocial behavior, such as lying, stealing, and irresponsibility. The child may also have lost interest in playing sports or joining group activities (“Children and Stress: Are You Pushing Your Child Too Much?”

Parents can find out how the child is coping with the expected changes by adhering to the following steps:
Note the sources of stress and the child’s reactions to them.
– Listen to what he says and does not say. Often, their silence could be a clue to something more.
To participate in classroom activities and functions. Find out what happens on a typical day in class.
Talk to the teacher about the child’s behavior.
Take notes if a negative pattern is developing.
– Call if you need help. Consult a pediatrician or school counselor.
Community Counseling Services is a private, non-profit organization, supported by United Way and a contractor from the ADAMH Council of Crawford and Marion Counties.


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