Back to school: Mental health advice for families

A therapist with the University of Louisville Health shares advice on how families can protect their mental health throughout the year.
A therapist with the University of Louisville Health shares advice on how families can protect their mental health throughout the year.
Published: Aug. 6, 2022 at 6:12 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Although back-to-school shopping can be exciting; it can also create stress.

Brandon Kays, a Mental Health therapist with UofL said the change in routine that comes along with going back to school can bring anxiety for families.

“I think anything that is important, is worth accepting the fact that we may have a little anxiety,” Kays said. “We may have a little bit of worry of how this year is going to go. I think it’s fair for parents to be stressed. I mean, there’s enough stress in the world, especially for kids in school. With teacher shortages, with some horrendous things that have happened in schools recently.”

Kays said some stress felt in parents stems from not feeling a sense of control.

“I know that one day, my kid is going to set foot into a school and I am not going to be in control,” Kays said. “That feeling of control is an illusion. Take away the mass shootings that have happened in the past couple years, take away the chaos that exists in society; we are still not really in control. Our kids can still be exposed to some of the same things. Our kids can still be confronted with peer pressure, toxic friend groups, or negative behaviors.”

His advice for parents is to make sure they have an open conversation with their family before school starts.

Talk about collective and individual goals for the year, and ask children what you can do to support them. Make sure kids know there is space to come to them with questions, concerns or confusion.

”You talk about the things that generally aren’t talked about, you are able to provide insight in areas that you’ve already experienced in life,” Kays said. “And you are also able to diminish a little bit of the nerves, a little bit of the anxiety and encourage your kid

Kay’s added one of the best things all parents can do is make sure their child knows they love them all the time; regardless of their grades projects, or performance in sports.

“These are trying times, but [kids] should know that they have support if they just reach out for it and look for it,” Kays said.

At Saturday’s back-to-school drive at St. Paul Baptist Church in Shively, hundreds of families came out to get free backpacks and supplies.

The free event is thanks to Education First Foundation, which partnered with organizations including Historically Black College and University Alumni, Metro Government and more to help parents get a head start on the school year.

“Families can come and when they come and register, all we need is their school and their grade,” Andrea Houston with Education First Foundation said.

Dionna Slemmons brought her daughter Tianna to get some extra supplies before she starts third grade.

”So it really eased my pain because I don’t have to worry about going to these different stores to try and find things,” Slemmons said.

Slemmons said she agrees with Kay’s advice. She said she has multiple check-ins with her children every day.

“Of course, there is a little nervousness, but it’s like and the kids have to develop, and they have to learn,” Slemmons said. “And what better way to do that than in school.”

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