The Diversity Amongst Back-To-School Students

It’s time for school…again.
For most parents out there this is a return to schedule, structure, and knowing the kids are in what they hope is a safe place for hours of the day. For some kids its a return to friends, structure, and learning which most enjoy. Today’s blog is about every instance in between. This means the kids who dread school for fear of bullying, rejection, power struggles with teachers, being labeled, compared, and feeling school only makes it worse.
Also, this is for the kids who love school because it’s consistent, provides safe expectations of what to do and what needs to be done, it’s an escape from what could be an unsafe home. Having worked with kids and teens for almost 10 years now – all of these groupings of kids exist and there are some not mentioned. What I hope this blog can be is a quick reminder of the diversity of experiences the kids and teens heading back to school are going through as well as a reminder to be kind. 

Types of Students

1. Kids and teens who are excited and ready for school – these friends come together in this grouping for many reasons. These friends are ready to learn and really enjoy the process of learning. These friends are the kids ready to be out of their homes to hang out with friends more. These are also the kids ready to be away from their home because home is unsafe, unstable, and unpredictable. When you come across these kids don’t doubt their sincerity and don’t downplay their excitement. Welcome their energy to the classroom. 

2. Kids and teens who are dreading school – again, these friends are here for many different reasons. One can be that school doesn’t feel like it fits their needs – these can be kids with adhd, autism, depression, developmental disorders; kids who don’t feel they fit the school expectation mold and school doesn’t seem to have the ability to meet their individual needs. This can cycle the kid or teen through feelings of incompetence, rejection, embarrassment, shame – emotions and thoughts that do not help anyone thrive. If you come across these kids – welcome them, help them feel capable and needed. 
This group of kids and teens are also those who have dealt with bullying, assault, mistreatment in the school arena and returning to it can feel traumatizing. Their reality needs to be seen and handled with kindness as well. These are kids who may end up in the counselor’s office; missing a lot of school; “acting out” in classes and the hallways; and much more. Keep an eye out for these kids too, they just want to feel seen and heard. To feel cared for. 
3. Kids and teens who mask their inner world – these are the friends who “seem” fine and “seem” able to be at school, do their homework, get the extracurriculars done and don’t “make a fuss.” I use quotation marks to denote that things are not always okay and to expect kids and teens to always be okay is unrealistic and unfair. 
Kids and teens need to be able to be authentic, to be silly, goofy, express their innerworld, and to speak up when things are not okay. Kids and teens who mask are really masters at self-control because they got the message at some point to not make a stir, or a fuss, or to draw attention. 
These kids and teens sometimes have outbursts that surprise teachers, friends, and family – this is because they are trying so hard to be what they were told is “good” but their emotions, feelings, and thoughts must come out. Let kids and teens be authentic. Open their expression of self into the classroom and be grateful when they share. 

Final Thoughts

Now, I imagine there are more groupings of kids we could come up with. However, this gets almost all of them. If you have time, scroll back through this post and consider those groups as people in college; people in the workplace; your colleagues; your neighbors; people in your congregation or community. If we can see that everyone is dealing with something and we choose to be kind rather than assessing and judging; life could be more bearable. 
For you kids and teens returning to school – good luck and be kind. For the rest of us – be kind. 
Written by Katie Walter

8 Effective Tips for Adolescent Therapy

Adolescence is a whirlwind phase in life characterized by rapid physical, emotional, and psychological changes. It’s a time of self-discovery, identity formation, and establishing one’s place in the world. However, it can also be a challenging period marked by uncertainty, peer pressure, and roller coaster emotions. 

As parents, caregivers, and mental health professionals, supporting adolescents through this critical stage is essential to their overall well-being. 

1. Establish a Safe and Trusting Environment

First of all, at PPH Therapy we create a safe space for adolescents to express themselves openly without fear of judgment. 

Therapy sessions are welcoming, confidential, and non-critical. Adolescents often feel vulnerable during this time, so building trust with our therapist is essential to the success of therapy.

Additionally, as parents, your teens should be able to come to you for anything. Create an open, accepting environment; allow them to be free to say whatever they want without lectures or reprimands. 

2. Focus on Active Listening

Listening actively and empathetically is a cornerstone of effective adolescent therapy. 

Please allow them to voice their concerns, fears, and dreams, and refrain from interrupting or imposing adult perspectives. By truly hearing their experiences, you can gain insights into their inner world and develop appropriate interventions.

3. Validate Their Emotions

Adolescents experience many emotions, and validating what they’re going through is essential. Even if their emotions seem irrational, acknowledging their feelings as real and significant fosters a sense of self-worth. They’ll feel seen and understood.

4. Encourage Self-Expression 

Not all adolescents are comfortable expressing themselves verbally. 

Therefore, be open to alternative forms of expression, such as art therapy, music therapy, or writing. Engaging in these creative outlets can help adolescents process their emotions and experiences in a non-threatening manner.

5. Address Identity and Self-Esteem Issues

Adolescence is a time when young individuals seek to define their identity and sense of self. Therapy can be a safe place to explore questions of identity, self-esteem, and self-worth. Encourage adolescents to discover their strengths and values while gently challenging negative self-perceptions.

6. Address Peer Relationships and Social Challenges

Peer relationships play a significant role in an adolescent’s life, often bringing joy and stress. Discussing friendship dynamics, conflict resolution, and social challenges can help adolescents develop healthier relationship patterns and coping strategies.

7. Cultivate Resilience and Coping Skills

Helping adolescents build resilience and effective coping mechanisms is vital. Teach them how to deal with stress, setbacks, and disappointments constructively. This will empower them to face life’s challenges more confidently.

8. Normalize Seeking Help

Many adolescents may hesitate to seek therapy, fearing it makes them “different” or “weak.” So, normalize the idea of seeking help for mental health, just as they would for physical health. Emphasize that therapy is a tool for personal growth, not a sign of weakness.

Back To School Therapy Tips To Help Transition

Help Yourself and Your Children Transition Back to School

This is a time of year when there are so many changes for kids, teens, and parents alike. Returning to school brings new and old friends, activities, learning, expectations, and grades. All of that is the added stress of social media, being a kid, family member, and parent.

Okay, writing that started to bring some flashbacks of school…phew! This post is hopefully going to provide ideas, tips, and general direction for kids, teens, and parents to help navigate the coming school year.

Mentally Prepare Yourself and Your Child for The School Year

Going into the school year is a big transition time and everyone involved in this process needs to be on the same page. The ideas to prepare and plan for our life skills, time commitments, education priorities, mental health, and play – giving them chances to be a kid. These things become complicated when expectations are kept silent or one-sided.

Taking time to break each of the above areas down will help parents and caregivers have an idea of how to help their kids and teens.

Priorities to Consider

Life skills examples include planning, organizing, cleaning, communication, boundaries, and responsibility.

male and female sit over young male smiling at a computer as the mom pats the boys head

Time commitment examples include sitting down together and going through all 168 hours you and your child have in one week. Consider all 24 hours in a day and really help them look at how their time is spent. Look for opportunities to have transition time between school, activities, and homework.

Education priority examples include everyone setting realistic expectations for performance.

Openly discussing learning ability, factors that can impact that, and really having an open min on both sides to accepting limits as well as pushing limits when appropriate.

Mental health is so crucial for kids and teens. The amount of stress, environmental factors, friends, bullies, and social media are all so much to handle. Managing times for breaks; discussing anxiety, suicidal thoughts, depression, and self-harm; support systems; and normalizing conversations and acceptance of these things can open so much in having your kid or teen come to you.

Play examples include time with friends, rest, fun activities, creativity, and using imagination.

older and younger female walk down a shrubbery path and the older woman has her arms around the younger child

With all the things to consider going into a new school year remember that everyone at home is going to have some high emotions during the first 6-8 weeks and then things hopefully will even out.

Keep in mind that home can become a safe place for kids and teens when they know, and trust parents are on their side with their best interests in mind. Invest the time now to be able to create a successful school year for everyone.