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Ensuring Mental Health Gains for Your Child (Upon a Return to School)

Dr. Tolu Alugo shares tips to ensure that the gains made by children with a mental health diagnosis are maintained over the summer months.

Summer Mental Health Maintenance.

Hello there!!

I trust that you are enjoying your summer so far. It has been hot and we are getting a lot of opportunities to play outside, go on bike rides, swim, etc. Lots of outdoor events and barbecues happening too.

I am sure you are grateful for the downtime and opportunity to let your hair down. I hope you are enjoying some well-deserved rest as well as opportunities to spend time with your family.

As the summer months continue to roll by, you may be trying to push all thoughts of returning to school to the back of your mind but continue to have some niggling worries. I have been doing several short videos with tips to ensure that all the gains your child made in their mental health during the school year are not lost. We certainly do not want to be starting from scratch again in the fall.

 

Tips for All Children

Whether a child has a specific mental health diagnosis or not, these tips would be useful:

1. Ensuring adequate sleep, a healthy diet, and physical activity.
2. Providing opportunities for social interactions with peers and family members. Ensure they are not spending long periods isolating in their bedroom or your basement, for example. Be intentional about the quality of time spent checking in and communicating with your child. Remember that being in the same house all day does not guarantee effective communication.
3. Developing new skills such as a new hobby or a life skill. This may be developed by assigning them age- appropriate chores and having them help out with meal preparation, gardening, etc depending on their interests.

 

Be intentional about the quality of time spent checking in and communicating with your child. Remember that being in the same house all day does not guarantee effective communication. Click To Tweet

 

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

All the above plus some structure and consistency. Take the opportunity to remind them of self- management/ organizational skills. This may include the use of visual schedules, lists, and reminders. Structured settings such as summer camps may help reinforce positive behaviors such as turn-taking. Autism spectrum disorder.

 

Children on the Autism spectrum may be rigid and intolerant of changes to their routine without advance notice.

The summer months may be a time to introduce some mild changes to the routine to help your child learn to tolerate changes. It is also important to continue to work on their social skills by providing opportunities for social interactions. A video on my Instagram page specifically addresses traveling with children on the Autism spectrum.

 

Depression

In addition to all the tips provided above encourage scheduled activity and social interactions, If they are receiving medication or psychotherapy, encourage compliance and full participation. Watch out for evidence of risk of harm to themselves. An indication that a child is engaging In self-harm may be a reluctance to wear clothing that would show their arms or legs despite warmer temperatures.

 

Anxiety

Anxiety thrives by avoiding what makes us anxious.

A common one in school-aged children is social anxiety. Your child must continue to be exposed to anxiety-provoking situations during the summer months so that returning to school in the fall does not become an uphill task. Examples of such anxiety-provoking situations may include attending a summer camp, paying for items in a store, placing an order over the phone, family gatherings, play dates, and hanging out with you and your friends who may children in the same age range.

 

Your child must continue to be exposed to anxiety-provoking situations during the summer months so that returning to school in the fall does not become an uphill task. Click To Tweet

 

Eating disorders

Eating meals together from time to time will help you to see what food choices your teen may be making. You can observe portion sizes and any attempts to cut out food groups. You can also choose to exercise together to ensure they are not exercising excessively. Their choice of clothing may also be an indication that they may be trying to conceal significant weight loss in baggy clothing for example.

Intentional preparation would ensure that the transition back to school is not too difficult.

Consider reaching out to your child’s school ahead.

Certain schools have strategies in place to make returning to school less daunting.

Your child may be able to visit their new classroom ahead of school resumption. Some allow a phased return to school so that a student does not become too overwhelmed. If your child is on a personalized learning plan, ensure the new teacher is aware of this and the recommended resources are in place.

Please follow me on Instagram and Youtube for regular youth mental health information. Consider signing your 9-12-year-old up for the Emotions Ambassador program to learn more about healthy emotions and so much more.
Enjoy the rest of your summer.

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