A Back to School Message for Parents from the OCDSB Mental Health Team

Heading back to school in September after a summer break can be an adjustment for both students and their families! Parents and caregivers may see their child(ren) express a wide variety of emotions about returning to school. Whether they feel happiness and excitement or are experiencing stress, fear, anger, or sadness, all of these are expected emotions at this time. You are not alone if you are feeling the rollercoaster of emotions during this time, and neither is your child. Here are some strategies to support your family in a successful return to school!

Check in & Talk About It

Setting aside some time to check in with your child(ren) about their feelings about the return to school is a great way to understand where they are at and help them feel connected. It also reminds them that they’re not alone to handle this transition. Focusing on what is within their control will help limit the time spent worrying about things that they can’t control, and can help things feel more manageable.

Acknowledge & Validate All Emotions

Listen, validate, and empathize with the feelings your child shares with you. When speaking about emotions, try not to jump into problem-solving or try to make them feel better. Instead, give space for the emotion, responding with things like “tell me more…”, “what are you excited about?” “what makes you feel worried?”, or “sometimes I feel worried too”. Normalize that even as adults, we experience these emotions and that whatever they are feeling is okay.

Model Calm 

Your child(ren) will look to you to understand and make sense of their emotions. Modeling a calm, confident, and reassuring attitude will help your child(ren) feel more at ease and help them feel more capable to manage whatever comes their way. Acting with confidence and focusing on things within your control will teach your child(ren) to do the same.

Familiar Routines

Summer break and school year routines may be quite different. Gradually moving back to the school year routine can help ensure your child gets enough sleep and is prepared for their typical school week schedule. Consider things like waking up and morning routines, bedtime, meal times, and even screen time. Engage your child(ren) in the conversation around what this transition back can look like and how you can work together to prepare for the return.

Self Care 

Self care is equally important for parents and children. One of the most important things parents and caregivers can do to support their child(ren) is to care for their own mental, emotional and physical needs. 

  • Healthy habits: Developing healthy eating and sleeping habits as well as regular exercise can contribute to both a healthy body and mind. 
  • Reduce stress: The return to school can be a source of stress for parents and students. Take time to consider the best ways for you to relieve stress and give yourself permission to make time for yourself.
  • Set realistic expectations: As we prepare for the pace ahead, remember to set realistic expectations. Parents and caregivers are human too. Be kind to yourself just as you are with your child(ren).
  • Reach out: Staying connected with others (friends, family, community) helps us to feel less alone. Reaching out is the first step to feeling connected.

Planning Ahead

  • Visit your child(ren)’s school. Walk around the outside of the building or yard, and talk with your child(ren) about the fun things they may do at recess. You can also visit the school website (remember special activities and events to look forward to) and encourage social connections with peers to ease the return. If you continue to have significant concerns regarding your child(ren)’s mental health and the return to school, reach out to the school for further assistance.
  • You know your child best! Share your insights and knowledge with school staff and ensure open lines of communication. As we embark on the year ahead, you and the school staff will create an incredible support team and we look forward to working in partnership with you!



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