71% of Kids Faced Challenges Last Year as They Return to School

71% of Kids Faced Challenges Last Year as They Return to School

Back to School: Addressing Children’s Mental Health Challenges

image

As the school year begins, a new poll raises concerns about the mental state of children who faced challenges in the previous academic year. According to an online survey conducted by the nonprofit On Our Sleeves Movement for Children’s Mental Health, approximately 71% of American parents believe that their children encountered difficulties during the last school year. These challenges encompassed a variety of aspects, including safety concerns, academic struggles, bullying incidents, ongoing social challenges related to the pandemic, and mental health issues.

Whitney Raglin Bignall, an associate clinical director of On Our Sleeves and a pediatric psychologist, emphasizes the multitude of difficulties children encountered during the previous academic year. “Between academic struggles, behavioral challenges, increased depression and anxiety, and challenges making social connections, we’ve been hearing firsthand from families about how tough last school year was for many kids,” she states. As the new school year commences, Bignall emphasizes the importance of understanding children’s thoughts and feelings about returning to the classroom. Conversations between parents and children may help minimize any lingering issues before they escalate into bigger challenges.

Talking about mental health can be challenging, but it is highly recommended that parents and caregivers initiate daily discussions to help children feel comfortable and supported in sharing their thoughts and emotions. Bignall also suggests that families work together to comprehend the child’s challenges and develop goals for the new year. This collaboration can set the stage for a more successful academic year.

To gain deeper insights into this issue, the survey was conducted online between July 11th and 13th, polling 585 parents of children aged 3 to 17. The results shed light on the mental health struggles faced by children during the previous academic year, urging parents and guardians to pay closer attention to their children’s well-being.

image

The Challenges Faced by Children

The survey results highlight a range of challenges faced by children during the previous school year. Among the various difficulties, safety concerns emerged as the most prevalent issue, affecting 37% of the children. This reflects the general anxiety surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and the measures taken to mitigate its impact.

Academic challenges, another major hurdle, were reported by 26% of parents participating in the survey. Remote learning, disrupted routines, and difficulty adapting to new teaching formats likely played a significant role in these difficulties.

Bullying incidents, unfortunately, affected 24% of the children. The transition to remote learning and limited peer interactions may have contributed to this increase, emphasizing the importance of addressing and preventing bullying in all educational settings.

The ongoing social challenges related to the pandemic impacted 24% of the children as well. The lack of in-person socialization, limited extracurricular activities, and reduced opportunities to interact with friends and classmates significantly affected their social development and well-being.

Mental health challenges were reported by 22% of parents. Increased isolation, reduced access to mental health support, and the uncertainties surrounding the pandemic may have contributed to the rise in mental health struggles among children.

Strategies to Support Children’s Mental Health

It is vital for parents and caregivers to take proactive measures to support children’s mental health during the new school year. Here are some strategies that can help:

  1. Initiate Daily Conversations: Engage in open and honest discussions about mental health to create a safe space for children to share their thoughts and feelings.

  2. Comprehend Challenges: Work together with your child to understand their specific challenges and develop personalized goals for the new school year. This collaboration fosters a sense of empowerment and promotes accountability.

  3. Promote a Supportive Environment: Encourage a supportive atmosphere at home and in educational settings that emphasizes empathy, kindness, and inclusivity. This can help reduce bullying incidents and enhance overall well-being.

  4. Cultivate Resilience: Teach children resilience skills, such as problem-solving, emotional regulation, and positive coping mechanisms. These abilities will empower them to navigate challenges effectively.

  5. Seek Professional Help: If your child continues to struggle or exhibits signs of significant distress, consider seeking professional help from therapists or counselors specializing in children’s mental health.

The previous school year was undeniably challenging for many children. As the new academic year begins, it is crucial for parents, caregivers, and educators to prioritize children’s mental health. By providing support, open communication, and a nurturing environment, we can ensure children’s well-being and academic success.

For additional resources on addressing children’s stress, refer to the Mayo Clinic.

Source: Nationwide Children’s Hospital, news release, July 27, 2023