21 May 2019
Even young pupils may encounter mental stress and need time to adjust back to school life after a long summer break. Photo: Xinhua
Even young pupils may encounter mental stress and need time to adjust back to school life after a long summer break. Photo: Xinhua

How to deal with back-to-school blues

The start of the new academic year is always a challenge for both parents and children. Many parents worry about their kids being bullied, excluded by schoolmates or ignored by teachers.

These matters, if not handled well, may be quite upsetting. What should parents do so their kids will be open about their difficulties in school and accept help from those who care about them?

A good relationship is the key to sincere communications. A sense of security is the foundation of child-parent relationship. Children will only show their vulnerable side to parents if they find their parents reliable and trustworthy.

When children are hesitant to express their thoughts and feelings, parents often become anxious. They might start questioning and judging their kids as if they were lawmakers questioning the government. But parents who often argue with their children and put pressure on them will not get very far in improving their relationship.

Any relationship takes times to build. Since time is scarce, parents should think about how to make good use of it. It can be 10 minutes per day or an hour per week, but the important thing is for parents to spend time with their kids.

The activities they share could be as simple as walking the dog, playing chess, reading books or going to the park. While doing these activities, both parents and children should stay away from their mobile phones.

Children feel love and respect from parents when they are the center of these activities. In such a relaxed environment, children will be more willing to talk about things that they are usually too embarrassed to bring out in the open.

Whether children are willing to talk about their feelings, especially about embarrassing issues, depends on how parents ask questions and respond.

Besides asking what fun things happened at school, parents can also ask: “Is there anything that happened in school that you keep in your mind and cannot resolve?”

With the help of parents, children will learn to use words to express their feelings, which is an important skill in managing emotions.

Parents should also readily accept their children’s negative emotions, instead of constantly telling them to “be happy” or delivering a lecture.

Children will eventually understand that negative emotions can be handled if their parents respond to them gently and do not panic. They can also learn from their parents how to control and deal with their emotions.

Overcoming challenges in school will not only help children to improve their problem-solving skills and become more mature, but will also allow parents to share in the joy of their kids’ emotional and mental growth.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Sept. 6.

Translation by John Chui

[Chinese version 中文版]

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FHKAM (Psychiatry)

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