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16 August, 2021.

Advice for the upcoming school year from The Family Counseling Center

School is set to begin in only a few weeks and with it comes anxiety and excitement for both children and their families. Across the nation, healthcare professionals have seen an increase in anxiety, depression, and fear from children over the course of the pandemic. The Family Counseling Center has recognized a heightened mix of feelings from children in advance of the new school year and is offering some advice for area parents.

1. Provide an outlet for feelings

Many children have mixed feelings about the start of school. They are excited to go back for in-person learning but also worried about getting sick. Some children are worried about virtual learning and have felt guilty for a lack of motivation or inability to comprehend lessons as easily as they do in a traditional model.

“It is important to provide an outlet for their feelings,” says Kaitlyn Atchinson, Youth Peer Advocate and part of the Children and Family Treatment Support Services team at The Family Counseling Center. “The goal is to get children to a place where they are comfortable enough to express themselves and talk about their emotions – the worries and joy that are mixed together regarding the new school year.”

One way Atchinson is helping youth address their concerns is by providing them with journals. Journaling allows individuals to express their worries, reflect, and problem solve in a safe place free of judgement.

2. Recognize parents need self-care too

The upcoming school year is bringing stress to parents as well. Jamie Spraker, Family Peer Advocate at The Family Counseling Center, recommends parents think of the airplane scenario. “When you are on a plane they recommend you put your air mask on first in the case of an emergency. Parents need to take a moment for self-care – they are busy doing double or triple duty (especially when there is virtual learning) and sometimes being your best means taking a few minutes just for yourself.”

3. Be prepared for change

If the last 18 months have taught us anything, it’s that plans change. Knowing that up front – recognizing the uncertainty and giving space for the feelings that come with it, can help a great deal in coping. Make plans for all the possibilities but give yourself room to fail. Feedback from children in a recent discussion group conducted by one of our school-based counselors brought to light that local children are feeling great pressure over their perceived failures – failure to learn, failure to settle-in, and failure to meet both their expectations and those of their parents – given the changes at school and in the world.

Failure is part of learning and we’ve all had a lot of learning to do. Communicate, support, and cope together with your children as they move through the start of this school year.

The Family Counseling Center’s Children & Family Services program includes Children & Family Treatment Support Services, Mobile Crisis for youth within Fulton County, and School-Based counselors in Fulton and Montgomery counties. For more information about these programs, please click here.