Supporting our kids mental health needs at school can be challenging even in the best and most predictable of times! Recent months have brought a lot of uncertainty and new and unexpected changes to how our kids live and learn. Changes in schedules and school routines can be stressful for all of us and are especially hard on kids who struggle with anxiety or other mental health challenges. And whether your child’s return to school includes in-person instruction with a varied or regular schedule, remote or virtual learning or a combination of them all, it likely also includes a level of uncertainty and a need for useful information, resources and support. Luckily there a lot of things you can do to help your child and yourself as you navigate all of the changes and challenges this new school year brings and a lot of great resources out there to help! We have been busy collecting resources from trusted partners that address the variety of issues families are facing this school year and this page will be dedicated to sharing them. We hope you find some tips, strategies and tools you can use!
Back to School Featured Resources
On Our Sleeves
On Our Sleeves Back to School Guide
On Our Sleeves Coronavirus Behavioral Health Resource Page
How To Prepare for a Return for an Abnormal School Year Video
Schedules and Routines Downloadable Sample Schedules
How To Help Kids Develop Health Habits Checklists for At Home or In School Learning
Child Mind Institute
Preparing for Back-to-School Success – How to Help Kids Thrive, Despite the Uncertainties
Back to School Anxiety During Covid-19 How To Help Kids Handle Fears & Gain Independence
K-2: Tips for Supporting Learning at Home – How to help young children get the most out of remote education
Supporting Families With Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports (PBIS) At Home
Managing Your Own Anxiety During School Re-Opening
Tips for Partnering With Teachers in the New School Year
How to Set Priorities This School Year – What to Do When You Can’t Do It All
Children’s Mental Health Ontario
Back to School Mental Health Kit
Six Tips to Support Your Child’s Mental Wellness and Prepare for the Start of the School Year
Navigating the School System: Laying the Groundwork for a Successful Return to School for Children with Mental Illness
Back-to-School Tips for Parents
Tips for Encouraging and Supporting Friendships During the School Year
Back-to-School Anxiety in Kids: What to Watch Out For This Year
Social Anxiety During Social Distancing: How to Help Your Child Cope
Helping Students Cope With Change and Disruption for Teachers
Mental Health America
Back to SchoolMental Health Toolkit
Michigan Alliance for Families –provides information, training and support, to help families prepare for the return to school while ensuring their child’s special education needs are met.
Additional Resources to Support You and Your Kids As They Return to School
Preparing Kids for an Unconventional School Year
Back to School Concerns About Your Child – How to Act On Them
Distance Learning Meet ADHD Again: How to Learn Remotely With ADD
Back to School Anxiety During Covid-19
Missing How Things Used to Be – Tip-sheet for Youth to Understand and Manage Their Feelings of Loss
Teenagers and Re-opening -Tips for Keeping Kids Safe During a Confusing Time
Getting Kids to Work with You During the Coronavirus Crisis – Increasing Cooperation in Kids With Autism
10 Ideas for Keeping Students with Diverse Learning Needs Engaged at Home
Distance Learning Meets ADHD – How to Learn Remotely with ADD Attitude Magazine
Resources to Support Kids to Wear Masks
Michigan Back to School State Information, Resources and Guidelines
MI Safe Schools Roadmap
Michigan Alliance for Families Education Covid-19 Resource Page
Michigan Department of Education Covid-19 Information and Resource Page
Michigan Virtual Michigan Cares Free Online Learning Portal for Michigan Families: A portal offering Free digital lessons designed to help students in grades K-12 develop the skills required for social, emotional, and mental well-being will be available to parents, teachers and youth until the end of the 2020-21 school year
CDC Resources & Family Checklists
Resources for Students Who Receive Special Education Services
Michigan Alliance for Families Education Covid-19 Resource Page
Michigan Department of Education Guidance for Return to School For Students With IEPS
Modifying an IEP or 504 for Distance or Hybrid Learning – How to help kids get essential school supports
Resources for College Age Students/Young Adults
Should I Attend College in the Fall_ Questions for Students with Mental Health Conditions to Consider
Finishing College Classes During COVID-19
Working from Home During the COVID-19 Pandemic
How Young Adults Can Manage Loss of Income During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Education and Virtual Learning Resources
- Michigan Alliance for Families COVID 19 Webpage for Families
- Connect With Families About Distance Learning, New Routines, etc…
- Wide Open School
- Picture Schedules and Learning Agreements for Your Child
- Coronavirus Roundup: 5 Free Low-Tech Learning Tools
- Are You CoronaSchooling? Daily Schedule Advice for ADHD Families
- Learning at Home: Sample Schedule & Resources for Elementary School Students with ADHD
- Online Learning: 8 Tips To Get Your Child Ready
- MI Statewide Tips for Support Student Wellness
- Michigan Alliance for Families Special Education & Covid 19 First Steps Video
- MI Department of Education -Office of Special Education Guidance IDEA-MARSE_Covid-19
- CSTS Helping Homebound Children during COVID-19 Outbreak
- Covid-19 Educators Guide
Resources for Teens and Young Adults and Those Supporting Them
- Accessible – Tips for Teens To Care for Their Mental Health
- Teen-Young Adult College COVID Information Sheet
- COVID-19 & Mental Health: Resources for Youth, Young Adults & Their Supporters
- Raising Healthy Teens Connecting During Covid-19
- Teenagers and Re-opening -Tips for Keeping Kids Safe During a Confusing Time
More resources will be added daily so be sure to check back soon!
Tips to Help Set Your Kids Up For Success During Remote Learning:
- Create routines and post schedules for the day. Try to create clear separations between school/work time and family/play time and develop transition rituals or activities if you can.
- Work movement, art, music and/or relaxation breaks throughout the day. Have Recess!
- Let kids create their own workspace where supplies and everything they need are ready to go.
- Use accommodations if needed to help them concentrate, stay engaged or on task- such as:
- Let your kids use timers to signal work time and break time or try ‘First- Then’ charts for young kids using pictures to show them doing school work then a fun activity
- Use sensory tools like playdough, wiki sticks or gum to help with concentration.
- Try noise cancelling headphones or background music to reduce distractions.
- Let kids be comfortable – change up how they learn, stand up, use flexible seating.
- Record lessons if possible so they can look back at things they may have missed.
- Color code materials to locate subjects quickly and then set aside when complete.
- Avoid troubles with technology or difficulty managing school learning portals, websites, by:
- Making sure you have a reliable internet and reaching out to your school if you don’t.
- Practice using the computer, tablet or device they will use so they are comfortable.
- Make lists of all of the different places or platforms your kids will have to log into and post usernames, passwords or other log-in information in an easy to access place.
- Create a tip sheet with step-by-step directions for all of the things they might have to do online such as enter classroom portal, check for assignments or create posts.
- Help your kids come up with strategies to build relationships with teachers and classmates
- Brainstorm ways to connect and socialize with their classmates or friends by setting up video chats, study zooms rooms, or by hosting online movie or game nights, etc..
- Tips for Parents
- Communicate! Ask teachers details about what to expect and how you can help.
- Cut yourself some slack and trust your instincts! It is ok to take a break or reduce expectations a bit if virtual school becomes overwhelming – You know what your kids need to focus on most, what they have down and what they struggle with – So feel ok about focusing in on their key needs or the basics and letting the rest go when needed.
Resources to Support Your Child & Family’s Mental Health This School Year
Back-to-school is usually a time of excitement for most kids, even if they experience a little anxiety or have trouble adjusting at first – but this year brings a whole new level of challenges for both kids and their families to weather. Whatever the back to school plan is in your area, it is important for us to keep in mind that all kids are returning to unfamiliar learning environments even if they return in-person to their local school and many of the protocols put in place to keep them safe such as social distancing, masks, new rules about sharing space or materials or working or learning together, may be really un-nerving and stressful for some kids. Simply asking young people to continue to keep their distance and not engage in social or recreational activities once they are back with friends may make some kids super uncomfortable. It can even create pressure or tension amongst youth if they have different views about what they should and shouldn’t do or worry about what their friends will think. In addition, some kids may worry about getting sick or making their friends or family sick. Some may experience separation anxiety and others may struggle simply by returning to a building filled with people, especially since many or most of us have spent much of the last several months somewhat isolated in our homes with our families. No matter how well we plan – these things and more are going to be stressful, cause some anxiety and make it more difficult to learn especially for our youth with existing mental health conditions who may face additional challenges adapting. Hopefully this school year will surprise us all and go better than expected, but in the meantime, let’s all continue to be extra mindful, supportive and keep a close eye on how our kids are adjusting and do all we can to prepare and support them for the challenges they will face along the way. Some specific things you can do to help them prepare include:
- Talk about the changes to school settings, schedules, routines and likely disruptions. Help kids problem solve what they might do to prepare or make things easier & more tolerable.
- Ask your kids their thoughts about all of the changes or what they think things will be like or different so you can talk through any fears, concerns or frustrations may have.
- Help normalize their uncertainty by letting them know that other kids, families and you have similar concerns or worries. Try not to minimize their worries or fears and make sure they know that you and the school are there to help and support them along the way.
- Prepare for the things you can! Practice new procedures such as wearing a mask, staying 6 feet apart or logging into online learning. Create strategies to help them feel less isolated and more connected. Plan specific ways to still stay close with friends from a social distance or virtually. If they are nervous about interacting through a screen -practice online chats with family or friends and create some responses to common questions they might be asked as school starts so they feel more comfortable.
- Develop a list of coping strategies to help them manage feelings of anxiety, lonliness, or frustration due to the loss of social or recreational activities or the way things used to be.
- Model coping skills whenever you can! Our kids look to us to figure out how to react in uncertain situations so if we can try to show patience, flexibility and resilience they will be more likely to try utilize those skills or traits when they encounter challenges too.
- Follow your instincts and don’t hesitate to seek help from your child’s doctor, teacher, school counselor, therapist or other mental health professional if changes in their mood, behavior, sleep, appetite or level of anxiety is making it difficult for them to function.
- Remember to take care of yourself too! If you or your child are experiencing emotional distress related to school or other changes due to Covid-19 check out MDHHS’s Stay Well Resource Page which offers links to crisis lines and other supports and a variety of resources designed to help reduce stress and support your family’s overall well-being.
Parenting Corner Parenting Corner – One Mom’s Back to School Message
I have never been that mom you see in commercials anxiously awaiting the opening of school – jumping for joy along with all of my neighborhood friends after the last bus pulls away….In fact…the mere phrase ‘Back to School’ often brought panic instead of anticipation and feelings of inadequacy instead of joy as I once again realized that many or most of the goals that I had planned to work on over the summer or things I meant to have in place before the next school year remained undone. Often it seemed like our family was just finally getting settled into the groove of summer as fall rolled in and I usually spent the last few weeks of August scrambling to catch up, get things into place, check in with teachers and waiting anxiously for responses. For me the beginning of school almost always brought a lot of anxiety. Was my child’s new teacher going to be ready and more importantly willing to learn about their needs or follow their IEP or behavior plan or be patient or tolerant of them or me? I usually rounded up the courage to face the first day with a brave face and a little hope but also worried endlessly to hear how the first day had gone. For me back to school was frequently filled with more anxiety than relief but this year….this year is a whole new ballgame which would be totally out of my league. Lucky for me my kids have graduated and moved on – so I have not had to make all of the tough choices facing parents today such as deciding whether or not to send my kids back to school buildings or figuring out the best way to support their learning at home.
My heart goes out to families dealing with the enormous stress and uncertainty this school year brings. I hope they find both strength and a little peace as they make decisions, manage logistics and either worry about keeping their kids safe and their masks on at school or try to keep their kids engaged and supported during virtual learning. I wish them luck as they try to prepare their kids and themselves for all of the new procedures and processes, or multiple learning platforms or devices, all while simultaneously trying to support their mental health needs along the way. And my heart really goes out to all of the kids out there. This year is going to be challenging for them all – but for those who already suffer from anxiety or other mental health issues; and may already struggle with change; have trouble mangling their moods, feelings, anxiety levels or focus; those who need structure and stability to keep it together; or struggle with transitions, sitting still or staying on task; those who rely on school social workers, counselors or others for some additional support; and those who struggle making connections with others or successfully sharing what they know. They may need extra supports at this time. So as you all prepare for your kids to return to school whether it be virtual, in person or a combo of both – remember to cut yourself some slack, give your kids and educators some grace, gather the information & resources you need from places like ACMH and most importantly don’t be afraid to reach out & ask for support when you need it!
We hope you found some information, support, resources and tools you can use as you work to support your child’s learning, education, mental health and over-all social and emotional well-being during this unprecedented school year. If you have specific concerns for your child, reach out to your child’s teacher and school, or mental health professionals and let them know and ask if there are any additional resources or supports available to help. If you have questions or need additional information or support please feel free to contact us by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org or call (888) ACMH-KID.