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Back to School Tips


The Canadian Mental Health Association Waterloo Wellington (CMHA WW) has recommendations to keep mental health top of mind while preparing for the quickly approaching school year

The start of the school year can be a transitional period for children, parents, and teachers. With any type of change or transition in life there can be an accompanying feeling of stress and anxiety due to uncertainty of the situation. While some thrive on the excitement and anticipation of September, others may struggle with new beginnings. Young children may be starting school for the first time, young adults could be off to high school or leaving home for post-secondary for the first time. Getting back into the school routine is a shift for many as it is a change from the laid-back summer months.

“A lot of people find back-to-school season challenging. You are not alone. Parents, teachers, and children are carrying a heavy emotional load, explains Krista Sibbilin, Director of Children’s Services at CMHA WW. “While there is no answer for how September unfolds, recognize the opportunity you are being given at this moment. Whether you are a parent, teacher, or student, help each other navigate through emotions by listening, validating and helping to problem-solve to ensure a successful transition.”

The good news is, there are several ways you can support your children, youth and yourself as a parent or teacher while going back to school. Here are CMHA WW’s five recommendations for parents and teachers to help your children and youth excel in the upcoming school year:

  1. One of the most powerful ways of supporting each other through the process of returning to school is trying to understand how everyone is feeling about it. Find the right time to ask questions to get a sense of what’s on everyone’s mind. Listening to what everyone is experiencing – and not criticizing – gives open space to talk about what’s going on or ask questions they have about the school year.
  2. Share that it’s normal to feel nervous about going back to school, or starting at a new school (this could be kindergarten, high school or even post-secondary) when you normalize the feeling, it makes it more manageable. Hearing their concerns and validating their feelings without necessarily being able to solve the problem. We don’t need to have all the answers, all the time. For a lot of people, resilience comes from having just one person in their corner who sees them and understands what they are going through. From there, you can start problem solving together by focusing on what is in your control to change.
  3. Normalize the topic that summer is coming to an end and that school will be starting. This could be introduced through a countdown to the first day of school on a family calendar and/or gradually getting back into school year structure and routines including meal and snack times similar to the school’s schedule.
  4. Set a bedtime (and/or wake up time), moving it closer to what it should be for the school year. Setting a screen curfew (a “downtime” after which point there are no screens) is also beneficial. Sleep is important for overall mental health for everyone (children, youth, and adults).
  5. Consider taking younger children to play at the school playground to become re-acquainted with the space and walk the route to school or the bus. It may be helpful for youth to visit their school as well. Prepare by creating a list, shopping and packing necessities, whether this is school supplies or things you will need when beginning post-secondary. Preparation helps with feelings of uncertainty.

During a period of uncertainty, it is crucial to be aware of stressors as adults that may impact your children or youth returning to school. These can include loss of work or changes to work arrangements, or supporting and worrying about loved ones, or having a young adult leaving home for the first time. With September quickly approaching, being aware of the impact of stressors can help keep them in control and prevent passing stress onto others.

While transitions can create short term changes to emotions and behaviours, watching for major changes over time when it comes to mental health is important. Shifts in mental health are displayed through outbursts or excessive mood swings, worry leading to stomach and body aches, persistent nightmares and lack of sleep, an avoidance of formerly enjoyable activities, becoming unusually quiet or preoccupied, a change in appetite and a significant change in behaviour that is not readily explained.

For mental health and developmental services support for children 0-6, you can call Here4Kids at

1-844-4KIDS-11 (454-3711). CMHA WW also offers a Children’s Walk-In Service available every Tuesday from 10am-3:30 pm at the CMHA WW Office located at 485 Silvercreek Parkway North Unit 1. The last appointment is at 3:30pm. The Children’s Walk-In Service is an opportunity for a child or youth (6-17 years old) to see a Mental Health Clinician, who will complete an assessment to determine the child, youth, and/or family’s needs. If you live in Centre and North Wellington, you can continue to book single sessions through HERE 24/7 1-844-437-3247 for our Children’s Services. If you are in crisis or need support for you or a loved one, please call our Here 24/7 crisis line at 1-844-437-3247 (Here 247).

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