It’s so easy to forget about mental health. Often, our attention is focused on the physical that we forget about the health of the interior, such as a teen’s emotions, thoughts, beliefs, dreams, and reactions to experiences. As long as your adolescent looks like he or she is doing okay, it’s easy to conclude that he or she is fine.
Furthermore, the adolescent school environment can be particularly challenging for some teens. There is a strong need to fit in with their classmates while at the same time a search for identity. If a teen already has concerns about their self-worth, self-image, or self-confidence, among other concerns, school can be a troubling environment for them. Not to mention that adolescence itself is a challenging stage in life in which a teen’s physical, emotional, psychological, and neurological well being is in flux.
For this reason, you can support your child’s mental health at school with the following:
- Know that your teen’s mental health is just as important as his or her physical health.
- Support your child’s healthy eating and sleeping schedule while he or she is in school.
- Talk to your adolescent about his or her career and academic goals. This can build excitement about attending school for academic and occupational reasons.
- Encourage your teen to participate in extra-curricular activities and try new experiences.
- Encourage your child to make friends and to be a friend to others.
- Talk to teachers and school counselors about how your child is doing socially and emotionally at school. It’s easy to assume that all is well when your child brings home good grades, but underneath he or she might be depressed or experiencing another form of mental illness.
- Take some time to learn about the signs of bullying. Research indicates that both being a bully and a victim can make teens vulnerable to mental illness.
- Get to know the school-based programs that might be available to support your teen’s mental health.
Researchers and social organizations recognize the need to provide additional levels of support for the mental well being of children in schools. Currently there are approximately 90,000 public schools across the nation within about 15,000 districts. Within these districts, social organizations are pointing out the need for a comprehensive framework across the country that enhances the way that the mental health of America’s children is being addressed.
At this time, there are school psychologists, behavioral health specialists, speech therapists, and physical therapists that provide address the needs of special education students. The mainstream classrooms can rely on school counselors, drug and prevention counselors, and teachers for addressing any mental health concerns.
Another tip to keep in mind as a parent is to get to know the mental health professionals on campus. Forming relationships with them can strengthen the network of support that your child can rely on if a circumstance becomes challenging at school. Many times, teachers will facilitate classes either before or after school such as teen yoga therapy, Tai Chi, or aerobics. These classes can support the overall well being of your child.
Although adolescence is a difficult stage, it doesn’t have to be. Your support can is can provide a level of prevention and support for overall health – physical, emotional, and psychological.
Adelman, H. & Taylor, L. (2010). Mental health in schools: Engaging learners, preventing problems, and improving schools. LA, CA: Corwin Press.
Mental Health America (2009). Back to school. Retrieved on March 21, 2014 from http://mentalhealthamerica.net/back-school
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