GRANDVILLE, Mich. (WOOD) – While your kids may be excited about coming back, there’s also stress that comes with it.
Some students say that the worries started at the beginning of the summer vacation.
“I get excited about things when I don’t need to and worry about things. School is exciting so it’s always on my mind,” said Grandville High School senior Josie Callendar.
Her classmate Aiden Martin added, “For me, it was early August when college applications opened, so it made it more real that I’m starting my senior year of high school. So I’m just thinking about high school, but I’m worried about what’s going to happen after that.”
Jaziah Cole, 12, will be starting 7th grade this year. The student-athlete who is also a straight A student has had her own struggles as a high school student. She has even witnessed the bullying of other students.
Going back to school is not something she looks forward to.
“Some families are not as lucky as others and the kids like to pick it up and do it. I see people like ‘oh if you don’t have these new Jordans,’ you can’t sit with us,’ she said. “Some things that are outside of school I sometimes think about in school. When it piles up, I get really confused.”
It is such problems that students say affect their mood and performance. Bad behavior is often misunderstood.
“That’s why we have a lot of suspensions and stuff, because I think if teachers had more patience and understood that all these things happen outside of school and in school, then maybe we would do better,” said Jaziah.
Grandville High School has a “Be Good” program through the Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan.
Liz Koza, a counselor at the school, says it’s helpful to have a program that discusses mental recovery and teaches students how to cope.
“It’s a great way to educate students about things they can look for, ways they can help their friends and just provide a community where they’re not alone when they’re feeling certain things,” she said. “If it wasn’t there, I think a lot of kids would have it more,” Martin added.
The first day of school for GHS is Monday. Students will have half a day. The rest of the week will consist of activities to welcome them back to campus.
“I have seen that in my 18 years of education go from being purely academic to the need to create relationships. We need to make sure our students are healthy mentally and physically and then they can learn. In the last five years, there has been a focus on building relationships with students,” said Koza.
Not all schools have a “Be Well” program or can afford different types of mental health resources. Koza and other advisers say schools with limited budgets can think small.
“At least the schools can educate the children,” Koza said. “If the whole school had a few awareness days or times to let people know that they offer help, that would be helpful,” commented Martin.
Samuel Jones, owner of Wisdom Center Counseling Services agrees, saying teachers should consider making it part of their lesson plans.
“Don’t be afraid to work with your administrators to say, ‘Hey, can we bring someone in? I want to bring in a therapist or someone else who is a school counselor to just come and talk to my kids for a day out of the week or a day out of the month, just to encourage our students.’
Prioritizing a child’s mental health is not just a job for teachers. Children say that parents play a vital role in how they see themselves. They suggest that parents and other adult figures try to put less into their children.
“A lot of parents are like ‘you have to have an A.’ You have to succeed in your classes,’ but some kids can’t make it because it’s not normal for some people,” Callendar said. “By not putting as much pressure on them, you can help kids succeed and not have too much stress or anxiety about school.”
Jones suggests that parents first check their own mental health, attitudes and expectations to better support their child.
“We have to see what stresses us out as parents, right? Because all those things start to play a role when we’re trying to talk to our children, our own,” he said. “You can see things through your own experiential lens based (on) what you went through when you were in school or based on your culture, ethnicity or experience, but your children are different from you. They are changing. They have different priorities.”
There is also an individual responsibility on the part of the child.
“Just know that comfort is okay. There is room for growth. It’s a place of opportunity, and you know what, there’s someone on the other side who’s been there and would like to have a conversation with you, whether it’s a parent, a mentor, or a coach, and/or a therapist. like me,” he said.