An Oregon doctor helps parents navigate student mental health as kids head back to school

Author: Brittany Falkers (KGW)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KGW) — Another school year is creeping closer — and that transition can bring on a lot of anxiety. Students are still adjusting to schooling through the pandemic, and this year will bring on new challenges.
“Every year, going back to school is a transition and can be challenging,” said Dr. Mike Franz, senior medical director of behavioral health for Regence. “It can also be exciting, but it can also bring on some behavioral health concerns for kids; how they’re tolerating the stress and whether it’s changing some levels of anxiety or mood changes.”

This week, Franz spoke to KGW about helping parents and guardians navigate back-to-school mental health.

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According to Franz, families need to first address overall health when tackling mental readiness to go back to the classroom, starting with the basics of physical health: exercise, healthy nutrition and sleep.

Physical activity: Make sure kids and teens are getting 60 minutes of some sort of physical activity every day.

Nutrition: Healthy food supports a healthy body and mind. Dr. Franz says nutritious meals and snacks start when parents are at the grocery store.

Sleep: Are your kids getting enough? Are they ready for the early alarm when school is back in session?

Making sure your child is mentally ready for school starts with asking and listening, according to Franz. Check in with your kids, ask them how they feel about the upcoming school year and how they’re handling the transition once it arrives.

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It is also important to normalize anxiety. Everyone feels stress, and self-reflection with your children can be helpful.

“We want to let our kids know that — we as adults get stressed. When we have transitions, it’s also challenging. It doesn’t always go perfectly and that’s okay,” Franz said. “Encourage some honest self-disclosure, especially when we catch ourselves under stress maybe not behaving as well as we’d like to as parents.”

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