Healthy conversations key to starting school year strong

It’s refreshing to see students headed back to school knowing that many of us are returning to once-familiar routines. However, youth may still feel more anxious than usual.

We’re all bearing the impact of three stressful, traumatic years, and it shows in studies that continue to demonstrate elevated anxiety and depression among adolescents. Recently, one survey noted that 73 percent of parents say counseling would benefit their child. That’s an even greater number than last year.

I’ve given my colleagues and friends a reminder this time each August that bears repeating: Give kids and school staff extra grace this year. And lots of it.

Let’s all champion hope as the year begins. I encourage adults to pay close attention to youth in their circles. The best way to do this is by creating safe space for open, honest conversations with a teen. Make time for regular, focused interaction and be willing to truly listen.

It’s common for adolescents to experience nervousness the first couple weeks of school, but continued unease is a sign something may not be right. Also watch for sudden changes. Isolation, aggression, disinterest in life, and an unhealthy switch in peers can indicate a concern.

You also can develop a healthy dialogue with your teachers. Recognize that they may be facing an incredible amount of pressure, and find ways to support their efforts. As you develop that relationship, take seriously any concerns they may raise.

If you think your adolescent needs help, be assured that there are many helpful resources available. School counselors and social workers are trained experts who want the best for each student. In many cases, organizations like Rosecrance provide additional counselors in schools as another level of support. We are grateful to partner with Rockford Public Schools to provide clinicians throughout the district. Plus, we offer outpatient counseling for those who need that extra mental health assistance on an ongoing basis.

Our caring team would love to help you and your family start the year strong. You can reach us at 888.928.5278.

Life’s waiting.