Back to School

Back to school is a stressful and exciting time for everyone involved. Managing this period as the parent or teacher of a child with mental health problems can be challenging, but here are some useful tips and guidelines.

For Parents

  • Prepare a schedule, and involve your child in planning this routine where possible
  • Make sure to always prepare the school bag and clothes the night before, to minimize stress before school in the mornings
  • Try to put toys away in the evening to avoid distractions in the morning before school
  • Communicate with the school and your child’s teacher(s) to make sure any problems are addressed as soon as possible – consider using a communication booklet or setting up regular meetings to stay on top of things
  • Does your child have an Individualized Education Plan? Make sure you and the school are on the same page and ready to implement the appropriate measures
  • If you are worried about your child participating in school outings, consider volunteering as a chaperone
  • If you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed, consider taking a short break – try to find a family member or neighbour who can babysit one afternoon or evening and take the time to relax. Parents need a break sometimes too.
  • Homework can be a struggle for many children. Try to make sure your child has an appropriate break after school to have a snack, talk about the day, and maybe engage in some physical activity before starting. Be calm but firm about homework time, and try to enforce a regular after-school routine
  • For more tips, see the website’s page For Families

For Teachers

  • Try to make sure a child with mental health problems is seated nearest to you from the start
  • Sometimes, giving a child special chores in the classroom can make that child feel important
  • Always be very clear about what you expect from a child. Providing structure can help a child with mental health problems stay on task
  • Be consistent about attributing rewards for good behaviour and punishments for inappropriate behaviour – even if you feel sorry for the child, it is important that inappropriate behaviour be followed by negative consequences
  • Help the child learn to self-manage – for example, avoid letting the child become too dependent on you during class tasks by limiting how many questions they are allowed to ask. This way, the child will be encouraged to consider whether a specific question is worth asking
  • Make sure tasks assigned to children with mental health problems are in manageable sizes – smaller, more feasible tasks in succession rather than one large task can help these children stay focused
  • Try to build a trusting relationship with the child – this can be done by building on an existing trust relationship the child already has (e.g. with a resource teacher) or by finding a way to connect with the child. What interests do you and the child have in common (e.g. sports or a favourite book)? Try to build off the child’s existing interests to create a connection – see this case example
  • If you can see that a child is having trouble forming relationships with others, try to discuss existing obstacles that child may be facing- see “Helping children relate to others”
  • As difficult as it may seem, try to always stay calm, even when a child is engaging in negative behaviour. Adult reactions are very important in shaping children’s behaviour
  • For more tips, see the website’s page on Teachers