Talking to your children about their concerns before school starts in SWFL

Published: August 9, 2022 5:30 AM EDT
Updated: August 9, 2022 8:07 AM EDT

Parents in Lee and Collier counties are running around trying to get ready for the first day of school next week, and experts recommend talking to your children about concerns they may have as they head back to class.

Along with the normal back-to-school concerns students have, like making friends and maintaining good grades, some students are also on edge because of the ongoing pandemic and recent legislation. HB 1557, the Parental Rights in Education law known to its critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” law, is one piece of legislation that has sparked conversations and raised some concerns from parents and students across the state. Some parents are worried that their kids may be distracted more than usual during the 2022-2023 school year.

WINK News spoke to local mental health experts on how parents can relieve some of that stress for their children.

“One of the things that I actually think is very important is to listen to your children, listen to concerns big or small,” said social worker Jessica Pinot. “Also, to understand that our children look to us to model certain behaviors. So, staying calm, staying prepared, staying positive, but, most importantly, staying flexible to obstacles that maybe new schools or new opportunities may throw at them.”

Local mental health experts say they don’t see too many children concerned about mass shootings or bullying ahead of the first day of school in Lee and Collier counties, but they say it’s a different story for those children’s parents.

Some local parents tell WINK News their children will be attending virtual school this upcoming school year because of those concerns. Experts say the children they’ve talked to feel prepared to deal with a mass shooting or a bully during the 2022-2023 school year. But there are resources for students and families of students with concerns.

“The SHIFT program focuses on treating trauma,” Pinot said. “What we do is we just focus mostly on the trauma, providing coping skills and education both for the parents and for families. We also offer support groups to continue to build your coping skills toolbox, to deal with our day-to-day [issues]. Our goal is to make sure that these individuals who unfortunately have suffered traumas can lead a life where it is productive, and they don’t feel like they’re just surviving.”

Pinot and other experts also mentioned looking out for any signs of anxiousness or irritability with your child. They say sometimes children don’t know how to accurately express their feelings, so it’s important to have some patience.

At this link, you can find some resources for parents and students this school year.