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5 September, 2023.

Advice for the upcoming school year from The Family Counseling Center

School’s start this week brings a mixture of both excitement and anxiety for 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 recognizes there is often a heightened mix of feelings from children in advance of the new school year and is offering some advice for area parents.

Therapist Jonathan Wavres, LMHC works primarily with children at the Center. His experience has shown common issues regarding the normalization of a new environment and new schedule. “There are new classrooms, new rules, a whole new flow to their day and that takes time to get used to. For some students, it’s not just a new classroom they need to get adjusted to but an entirely new school. These changes can make existing anxiety, depression, and behavioral issues increase.”

Wavres offers a few coping skills when working with children:

1. Find their safe spaces

For children with anxiety or fear, this means identifying the places, people, and activities that help them feel safe – at school or out of school. It is important for children to feel like they can always find a place that is safe – either physically safe or emotionally safe. If they can identify those places, it will add a level of reassurance when anxiety hits.

2. Keep a schedule or agenda

Having a clear and easily accessed schedule or agenda for a child helps them to stay focused and, as a result, feel more in control. Knowing what is expected of them – when to leave for school, when homework gets done, and what activities are coming up helps them worry less about the unknown. In addition, a child’s involvement in sports or club activities can create community and friendships.

3. Validate your kids’ experiences

“I think the biggest piece of advice to parents is to validate their child’s experiences,” says Wavres. “The educational environment is drastically different from when we were kids. There are worries like school safety, confusing homework, and the anxiety that remains from the pandemic. In the end, adults have jobs that we validate and accept – school is a kid’s job which also deserves validation: the good, the bad, and the anxious.”

The Family Counseling Center’s therapists work with children as young as five years old. In addition, the 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.