With the beginning of school nearing, many families are preparing with buying school supplies, but what about mentally preparing for school?

Once September long weekend passes, school begins and not many welcome this transition. There are a few, who are not parents, that look forward to school starting up again.

Since COVID-19 restrictions began in 2020, life has not been the same. Even with restrictions lifted the residue of the pandemic can still be seen and felt, especially by children and the process of going to school.

"It certainly has affected some in a very negative way due to isolation and not being able to connect socially in ways that kids have in the past, for some, it's made learning more difficult, the remote learning, I mean," says Terry Warburton, Clinical Director, Recovery of Hope. "I know we're sort of back into in-person for the most part, so that's changing. There's some that it's been really difficult for and just because a lot of the restrictions of the pandemic are over doesn't mean that those struggles are not there. In fact, some of them may be ongoing, but there are others as well who really enjoyed the online learning, preferred it and did better with it. They had good social connections within their family and people that they could kind of regularly connect with."

Warburton continues to say that these problems most likely were not created by the pandemic, but were actually accentuated by it. Meaning that any difficulties were already there, but not to an extreme level and once restrictions were set, it made it worse.

She also says that there are ways for parents or caregivers to help make the transition easier for their children.

"I think the more that the parents and guardians can try to see things from the perspective of their young ones, whether it's younger kids or teens, that insight really going to help them. We kind of look on the outside at the behaviour and sometimes we don't understand maybe where that's coming from, but going back to school is a time of transition. What I really encourage people to do is to think about how can they help support their children through these transitions. It might sound counter-intuitive but start talking about it now if you have it."

Warburton suggests that for children who are struggling with the transition, to seek outside resources.

"There are resources within the school, we, as parents and caregivers, can do a lot to support that. If our child is going to a new school we can get our child into the school before school actually starts and give them an opportunity to meet their teacher and get used to their surroundings. There are guidance counsellors at school, that can be a great resource if kids feel comfortable."

She also suggests resources for parents and caregivers who are struggling.

"I think if parents and caregivers are struggling or they think their child is struggling, contacting a parent consultant or a counsellor, that's a big part of what we do at Recovery of Hope, we can sometimes just meeting with the parent, giving them some tips, giving them some insight into what their child might be going through. Especially when a child is not really talking, you're just kind of seeing maybe lots of aggression or frustration or anxiety, or they're locking themselves in their room a lot. I think if parents have questions and concerns, it's always good to reach out to a reputable agency."

There are many parents and schools who are okay with allowing their children "mental health days," it is becoming an increasingly accepted strategy for keeping children well.

"It's really about the parent understanding their child and where is this coming from. I mean, as adults we know that that we need those, like, there's just times where we're overwhelmed or, you know, whatever is going on that that we need to do that, that's why we have sick days. So, it really depends. Because for one child, it might be the best thing to encourage them to go to school, along with encouraging supportive words of, you know, what if it's feeling like too much, give me a call and we'll bring you home. For others, we might just know that, oh yes, based on what I know is going on for my child, a day at home or half a day at home might be a good thing. School can be a very overwhelming environment for a lot of kids."