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Davis Journal

Support kids’ emotional wellbeing – not just academics – as they return to school

Aug 17, 2023 10:45AM ● By Becky Ginos

As kids get back into the routine of another school year, there is some excitement for what’s ahead but for some children it might bring anxiety. Parents play a key role in helping their child through the understandable ups and downs

“First, start with what we call ‘bottom of the pyramid’ needs,” said Rachel Reist, LCSW, Learning to Breathe coordinator for Davis Behavioral Health. “These are our physical needs for rest, nutrition, hydration and exercise. It may seem really basic, but these are the building blocks of wellness for us all.”

Help childrenget on a good sleeping schedule as soon as possible, she said. “Plan ahead for wholesome meals and snacks. Be sure they keep a water bottle nearby to stay hydrated in these hot months and support them in walking, running and playing. Before we can attend to our emotional world adequately we have to take care of the physical body.”

Now, how about emotions? Reist said. “There’s the anxiety about going to school, the sadness when friendships are hard, the frustration with younger siblings, etc. Though our gut instinct may be to jump in to trying to ‘fix’ these emotions right away and make them stop, another approach is usually more helpful, especially in the long term.”

Reist said instead, parents need to remind themselves and their child that all of those emotions are OK and they can talk about them. “You might need a breath to soothe yourself when you notice that some of your child's emotions elicit your own anxiety. Then invite your child to walk through what we call a ‘Mindful Pause.’”

Reist offers these suggestions:

  • Pause and take a breath
  • Name the emotion(s) that they are feeling
  • Notice and describe where they feel the emotion in their body
  • Ask what support they need to help them – a drink or snack, a walk outside, a chance to write or draw or talk about what they are feeling, a hug…
  • After taking a few minutes to do that activity, ask them to name the emotion(s) they are feeling now

“For further support, we hope you will tap into our community resources offered through DBH Prevention and the Communities That Care Coalitions," said Reist. “Come for an EveryDay Strong presentation, a Circle of Security Parenting class, a Strengthening Families class, an Emotion Coaching class, a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction class, or a Learning to Breathe class.”

For more information about the DBH classes or how to help your child navigate the emotions of returning to school, visit