Newswise — COLUMBUS, Ohio (August 8, 2022) — Every new school year comes with its own set of emotions – from worry to excitement – for kids. After years of a global pandemic, safety concerns and other stresses of today, we have to prioritize checking in with children to understand what they are thinking and feeling.
A new national survey conducted online by The Harris Poll on behalf of On Our Sleeves, the movement for children’s mental health, finds that 79% of parents with a school-age child believe their children will have challenges going back to school this fall. The top three factors identified by parents of school-age children that will make going back to school this fall challenging for their children include safety concerns (44%), bullying (33%) and ongoing challenges related to the pandemic (32%).
All these concerns affect children’s mental health, which in turn can be an obstacle to focusing at school, learning, and socializing with peers. So how can parents know whether their children are healthily processing the day’s issues and ensure that kids feel confident and ready for the school year?
While caregivers know that addressing mental health is important, many don’t know how to start that conversation. Through Operation: Conversation, a check in on children’s mental health, On Our Sleeves is equipping caregivers with the tools to start and maintain conversations with their children about their thoughts and feelings to ensure a successful school year.
“Heading back to school each year comes with its own set of emotions,” said Ariana Hoet, PhD, clinical director of On Our Sleeves and a pediatric psychologist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. “Check-ins like these can positively impact our kids’ mental health, so they can feel confident about the school year and ready to learn. Now, more than ever, kids are exposed to a whole world of challenging, scary and complicated topics. It’s crucial to have open conversations about all types of topics and empower kids to talk about their feelings and emotions.”
Even if a child is excited for the return of school and doesn’t appear to have fears or worries, it’s still recommended that parents start having daily conversations with their child - empowering the child to open up about feelings and emotions that may otherwise go unrecognized.
Childhood mental health experts at On Our Sleeves have developed back-to-school conversation starters, tip sheets and educational resources to support a mentally healthy start to the school year. Simple questions like, “How are you feeling about the start of school?” or “What’s your favorite summer memory?” can help parents and children start conversations.
In addition, year-round conversation starters help parents and caregivers start conversations anytime and offer guidance for talking about more challenging topics. They also developed a conversation starting card game that helps create the habit of having conversations with your kids.
As children head back to school this fall, families and caregivers have the power to set their kids up for success – not only with all their desk supplies, but their mental health tools, too.
For more information and resources on children’s mental health and wellbeing, visit OnOurSleeves.org.
This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of Mediasource from July 14th – July 18, 2022 to among 2,038 U.S. adults ages 18 and older among whom 532 have a school age child (Ages 3-17). The sampling precision of Harris online polls is measured by using a Bayesian credible interval. For this study, the sample data is accurate to within + 2.8 percentage points using a 95% confidence level. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables and subgroup sample sizes, please contact Molly Devaney.
About On Our Sleeves®
Children don’t wear their thoughts on their sleeves. With 1 in 5 children living with a significant mental health concern and half of all lifetime mental health concerns starting by age 14, we need to give them a voice. On Our Sleeves®, powered by behavioral health experts at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, aims to provide every community in America with free resources necessary for breaking child mental health stigmas and educating families and advocates, because no child or family should struggle alone.
Since the inception of On Our Sleeves® in 2018, more than 3 million people in every state across America have interacted with the movement’s free pediatric mental health educational resources at OnOurSleeves.org and educator curriculums have reached more than four of five classrooms across the United States.