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Mental Health And Back to School

 
Being mentally fit will help prepare children for the year and stresses ahead according to local experts.
When the new school year starts, there’s no doubt things can get a little hectic for you and your children. Going into new classrooms, learning new subjects and meeting dozens of new people is somewhat stressful, especially in just a few days time frame. At this crucial time, some children can become overwhelmed with the changes. When coupled with other factors, it can have a tremendous effect on a student’s well being. To ensure that your children are getting the most out of their day at school and at home, it’s just as important that they be mentally fit as it is they be physically fit.

 
Being mentally fit will help prepare children for the year and stresses ahead according to local experts.

 
When the new school year starts, there’s no doubt things can get a little hectic for you and your children. Going into new classrooms, learning new subjects and meeting dozens of new people is somewhat stressful, especially in just a few days time frame. At this crucial time, some children can become overwhelmed with the changes. When coupled with other factors, it can have a tremendous effect on a student’s wellbeing. To ensure that your children are getting the most out of their day at school and at home, it’s just as important that they be mentally fit as it is they be physically fit.

“Students who are ‘mentally fit’ tend to be optimistic and hopeful, enjoy and benefit from a learning environment and are better able to concentrate and engage in higher order cognitive activities,” says Dr. Mark D. Rapport, director of the Children’s Learning Clinic-IV and professor of Clinical Child Psychology at the University of Central Florida. As a student goes about their day-to-day lives, they experience dozens of new stimuli every day and the exposure can become overwhelming. As a parent, it’s important to note when these instances occur to determine if it’s a normal reaction or something else entirely. Some of the most common problems experienced by students, according to Rapport, include: fatigue, an inability to concentrate, excessive worrying, fearfulness, strained peer and interpersonal relationships, feeling overwhelmed, increased disorganization, decreased motivation and for some, bullying.

Mental health is arguably just as important as physical health, especially where education is concerned. To help keep your children healthy throughout the year, Rapport offers several tips: “Provide a warm, stable, supportive home environment, a healthy diet, regular exercise (particularly aerobic) and adequate sleep on a routine sleep schedule,” he says. You may also help children avoid fatigue or worrying by helping them learn how to organize their life using computer calendars, daily reminder lists or other organization tools. “Scheduling ‘fun time’ with and away from the family and engaging in enjoyable learning activities also promotes a mentally healthy lifestyle,” says Rapport.

Helping them to organize the tasks and demands that are responsible for them feeling overwhelmed may help curb more serious problems as well as lead to an overall improved quality of life. “Breaking tasks into smaller, doable components may also help,” says Rapport. He also suggests limiting study periods to 25-45 minutes for most children and teens with interspersed fun activities or exercise in-between. Small naps may also make the day more manageable for kids and teens of all ages.

Still, if your child appears to be experiencing “burnout” and shows typical signs of increased irritability or moodiness, decreased interest in activities that used to make them happy, fatigue, changes in appetite or an absence of smiling there is something you can do. “Sit down and have a heart to heart talk with your child immediately – avoid lecturing or problem solving – simply focus on developing an empathic understanding of what is bothering your child,” says Rapport. “It’s important to ask how you can help, and, at a different time, problem-solve.” Rapport also suggests speaking with your children’s teachers or the school counselor to learn more. “If the problem worsens or persists, make an appointment to have your children evaluated by a trained mental health professional who specializes in children, uses empirically proven diagnostic and treatment interventions, and has an excellent reputation in the community,” he says.

It’s important to remember that as your children move throughout their life they will experience typical ups and downs and it’s what’s done at these times that will help them grow and prevent them from being overwhelmed later. “Initial strategies to help your children should be implemented before becoming overwhelmed by pressure, and certainly following the initial signs of ‘burn out,’” says Rapport.

Article by Corey Gehrold

Posted by InsightMG on Thursday, July 30, 2009
 

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