Helping our kids flourish in school

The lingering impacts of recent years continue to weigh on students as they navigate another school year. With nerves frayed from anxiety, stress, and trauma, many continue to have difficulties expressing themselves appropriately, leading to outbursts, defiance, and aggression.

“Parents came back to me a lot this year saying that their child was so sweet and loving, but now they are seeing aggression at home, defiance, acting out, when they had not seen those behaviors before,” said Rosecrance mental health therapist Lisa Thompson in the latest episode of the “On Your Radar” podcast. Thomson works with Rockford-area youth.

Rosecrance partner Sheila Blanchfield, chair of the school counseling department at Loyola Academy in Wilmette, Ill., observed that students’ best efforts to maintain positive mental health were falling short more often.

“This generation is very aware of mental health because they see it so much on social media, and they are genuinely seeking support,” she said. “They are trying to use coping strategies, but when you are white-knuckling it, you can’t do it every day.”

To make the spring semester a success, parents are encouraged to maintain supportive, open communication with children. In addition, watch for social withdrawal or irritability, as these are common symptoms of struggling youth who may not yet have the language to articulate feelings and thoughts. If social media use is a concern, parents can set healthy boundaries, especially in the evening, to ensure time for the child to wind down.

“I like to encourage parents to normalize feelings for their children, and what is appropriate behavior,” Thompson said. “A designated safe space can be helpful, especially with younger individuals, where they can get frustration out.”

It’s also important to recognize resilience, celebrating when a student handles a difficult situation well or bounces back from a disappointment.

“I love adolescents because they are like sponges. They want to learn, and they have a lot of hope,” Blanchfield said. “When I correct their behavior, they are so responsive.”

If you sense your child needs help, contact a school counselor, social worker, or teacher. They are as concerned for the child’s wellbeing as you, and they have resources to help. Rosecrance works with schools in Chicagoland, northern Illinois, and the Champaign area to provide assessment and intervention services, as well as a full continuum of care. You can reach our Access team at 888.928.5278.