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5 Mental Health Challenges to Look for in Children Going Back to School

Back To School Time is Here!

It’s back to school time and as a parent or guardian, you want this time to be fun and your child to look forward to it. The transition back to school can be a time filled with excitement snd anticipation. Let’s explore 5 mental health challenges to look for in some children going back to school.

Recognizing and addressing the signs to look for early can make a big difference in a child’s school experience.

Here are a few signs to look for as the new school year starts.

Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety can manifest in many ways. Some include excessive worrying about school performance, or social interactions. It can even be presented as the fear of going to school (school phobia).

Signs may include:

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Restlessness or irritability
  • Sudden drop in grades
  • Avoidance of social situations


Depression in a child is more than just the moodiness or occasional up and down mood changes.

Children facing depression can manifest it in different ways and behaviors.

Some symptoms your child may show include:

  • Prolonged sadness or hopelessness
  • Loss of interest in activities they once enjoyed
  • Fatigue or low energy
  • Change in eating or sleeping patterns

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Children with ADHD might find the transition back to school particularly challenging.

Symptoms can include:

  • Trouble focusing on tasks
  • Hyperactivity or impulsive behavior
  • Difficulty following instructions
  • Struggles with organizational skills

Eating Disorders

Stress related to school may contribute to or exacerbate eating disorders. If your child’s eating habits has changed, here are some signs to watch for:

  • Obsession with weight or appearance
  • Dramatic changes in eating habits
  • Expressing fear of gaining weight
  • Rigid eating patterns
  • Eating in secret
  • Withdrawal from friends and family

Behavior Problems

Some children may exhibit behavior challenges. They may suddenly be acting out and it’s not all related to things like “just being (whatever age they are)” or physical/hormonal changes they might be experiencing.

Some behaviors may be:

  • Acting out or defying rules
  • Aggressive behavior towards others
  • Talking over and interrupting others
  • Withdrawal from friends or family
  • Loss of friends
  • Excessive mood swings and outbursts

Strategies for Support for your Child

Understanding these challenges is the first step.

Here’s how parents and guardians can support children facing mental health challenges.

Talk to Your Child

Before school starts, have a chat with your child. Ask them how they’re feeling and what they’re excited or worried about. This helps you understand their feelings. Sometimes, kids with mental health problems might feel more scared or stressed. Listening to them can make a big difference. Have regular talks with the child about their feelings and concerns. Encourage them to express themselves.

Meet the Teacher

Teachers are like your team members at school. Set up a meeting with them to talk about your child’s needs. You can tell them about any special help your child might need. Working together can make school a fun place to be. Teachers and school staff should work together to provide a supportive environment. Communication between home and school is key.

Create a Routine

Kids often like knowing what’s going to happen. Having a daily routine can make them feel calm. Try to keep bedtime, wake-up time, and meal times the same. A calm morning can make the whole school day better!

Pack a Comfort Item

Sometimes, having something special from home can help. For your younger child, if possible, find a favorite toy, book or photo they can take to school, or keep in a backpack. This can be like a friendly hug when they need it.

Look for Changes

When school starts, keep an eye on your child’s feelings and behavior. Are they more quiet, angry, or sad? If you notice something different, talk to them and ask how you can help. Stay alert to changes in behavior or emotions and adjust support as needed. Sometimes, these changes mean they need extra support.

Encourage your Child to Build Friendships!

Friends can make school a great place! Encourage your child to join clubs, sports, or activities they like. Having friends who share interests can make them feel happy and less lonely. Praise achievements and efforts.

Work with The School Counselor

School counselors are like super helpers! If your child needs extra support, they’re there to help. You can set up meetings with them to make sure everything’s going well. They can also make you aware of any issues that need professional mental health support.

Encourage Healthy Habits

Eating good food, getting enough sleep, and exercising can make everyone feel better. Try to make sure your child has healthy snacks, goes to bed on time, and plays outside. These things can help their brain and body feel great.

Use a Feelings Journal

Sometimes, writing about feelings can help. Your child can keep a journal to write or draw how they feel. If they want to share with you, that’s great! If not, that’s okay too. It’s a private space for them.

Stay Positive

School can be hard, but it can also be a lot of fun! Encourage your child to try new things and praise them when they do well. A happy and loving home can make school feel much better.

Sometimes things are just not working and it might feel out of your control. Instead of continuing trying the same actions or interventions, it might be time to take a step back and look for the resources and support your child(ren) and family may need.

Seek Professional Help If Needed

It’s entirely normal to feel a mixture of emotions, including guilt, when deciding to find mental health support for your child. Seeking professional help for your child is a responsible and caring decision. Here are some strategies to help you with any feelings of guilt or not doing enough.

  • Understand the importance of professional help
  • Communicate with your child
  • Seek support from others
  • Focus on your child’s needs
  • Collaborate with the therapist
  • Consider your own feelings and seek the support you need
  • Educate yourself
  • Avoid comparisons
  • Recognize it’s a process
  • Remember it’s a sign of strength

Every child is unique and what might have worked for another child will not work for another. It’s vital to approach each child’s situation with empathy and understanding. It’s important to be ready for professional help if needed. It can be best to bring in a mental health professional, to provide the insights and the assessments needed.

A counselor will offer therapy and guidance tailored to your child’s specific needs. Children will open up to a counselor in ways they won’t with a parent.

Your child’s counselor will also encourage and provide support to parents and guardians. You will be part of your child’s journey. Navigating through a child’s mental health issues can be challenging and you don’t need to do it alone.

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Where To Go From Here

If you feel it’s time to seek out support from a mental health professional, the counselors at Pathways Counseling Services are here and ready to support the needs. Your intentions are to provide the best resources for your child.

We offer counseling services in the late afternoon/early evening and on Saturdays, to help you work with your child’s school schedule.

By being proactive and attentive, parents and guardians can help children navigate the challenges and thrive in the new school year.

Pathways Counseling Services is the top-rated therapy and counseling service in Scottsdale, Arizona, year after year. We can help you and your child live a happier and healthier life through effective and supportive mental health care. You can reach us by phone at 480-235-1682