EARLY YEARS: Preparing for Back to School also includes helping kids get mentally and emotionally ready

Supervisor of Counseling for Roanoke County Public Schools Karen Garlow offers tips for back-to-school mental wellness
Parents should ask kids the right questions about their school day, and validate their concerns
Published: Aug. 9, 2023 at 6:04 AM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - The work to prepare for a new school year happens well before the first bell rings.

“Our administrators and counselors have been busily preparing all summer to welcome new students, as well as previous students from last year. And we’re so excited. It’s just a busy time,” says Karen Garlow, Supervisor of Counseling for Roanoke County Public Schools.

Busy, but also sometimes stressful for students.

Attending back-to-school nights and orientation sessions can help relieve some of those jitters.

“If families and their kids can come out to those, I think it does several things for the student. It might relieve some of their stressors about where do I go? Who’s my teacher? Where are my classrooms?” says Garlow.

While your child’s worries might seem minor, Garlow says it’s important to validate their feelings. Encourage them to identify the helpers at school.

“Maybe identifying some of the resource people in the building, like if you got lost, where would you go? You could go to the front office, or you know where the counselor’s office is, you could go there,” says Garlow.

Issues can sometimes arise with friendships and social circles over the summer break. Garlow says give it some time. Otherwise, have your child ask for help.

“Kids sometimes just get over those conflicts, get over some of those issues. But if not, if it’s still really impacting a student, we highly encourage them to get in touch with their school counselor,” says Garlow.

The main lesson here, ask your children how they’re doing. And don’t accept a one-word answer.

“Hey, what was the best thing about your day today? What were the challenges? And leaving those questions kind of open-ended,” says Garlow. “Just keeping that dialogue and that communication open between families and their students.”

You can hear Kimberly McBroom’s entire conversation with Karen Garlow in her “Early Years” podcast. To listen, click here.