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Now that school has started, students and parents are attempting to get into a routine. With the cloud of COVID-19 continuing to hover over what many hoped would be a ‘normal’ school year, there are ways parents can offer support to help young people navigate any potential challenges and changes and maintain good mental health.

Kimble Richardson, licensed mental health counselor and director of business development, for Community Health Network offers advice and guidance by answering some commonly asked questions:

Q: How can I guide my child through any ‘mask-shaming’ they may encounter at school?

A: If they will be wearing masks, it’s important to have a conversation with your child about what could happen if someone says something about them wearing a mask.  Talk about possibilities and options.  Help them think through appropriate responses so they are ready if they are teased to shamed.

Q: How do I talk to my kids about misinformation they hear at school?

A: At dinnertime, bedtime, or another time you are together, make a game of it. “Let’s talk about all the things we heard about COVID today”.  Share what you have heard as well.  Give them your perspective based on what they tell you.  Discover what is true and what is not together

Q: How can I recognize and address stress, fear and behavior changes in my child?

A: Teach your child that emotions are normal and natural.  Let them know whatever they are feeling it is ok, and that you are there to talk with, and support them.  Use language the child is old enough to understand.  Help them label emotions so they understand and can identify what they are feeling. 

Q: Are there tools you recommend to help children and teens process their social, emotional and mental well-being?

A: One thing to do to process emotions is to understand emotions are normal and part of being human.  We all have emotions and different intensities and levels and we need to be able to name them.  It’s ok to feel sad, mad, happy, etc. Help them express their emotions in healthy ways.

Q:  What are some conversation-starters parents or guardians can use to help young people cope with stress?

A: How you start a conversation with a child about stress depends on how old they are and how much they understand.  Start by saying, “I would like to talk to you about something that is important to me and important to our family because I care about you and want you to be well, safe, and healthy”.  Set the stage for the conversation. 

Click these links to read more about how to maintain good mental health at home:

12 Ways to improve your mental health

How to support mental health in your home