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What back-to-school conversations to consider with children

We spoke with a behavioral health expert.

TAMPA, Fla. — Back-to-school season is right around the bend.

Dr. Jennifer Katzenstein, co-director for the Center for Behavior Health at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, says it’s time to prepare.

“It’s definitely time to get back into our routines, start thinking about that bedtime and wakeup time," Dr. Katzenstein said.

She says also start the conversations with your kids about any concerns they have about the school year.

“There’s a lot going on that’s impacting our kids and families in a lot of different ways so, the sociopolitical climate, social media, seeing a shooting in the news right before the end of the school year," she said.

She says they’re all contributing to added stress for students.

To get ahead of worries creeping in, Dr. Katzenstein says make a daily conversation with your child a habit. She says think of it as a daily check-in, “finding 5 minutes, 10 minutes max per day where you and your child are hanging out, maybe doing an activity together but all of our screens are put away, the electronics are turned off and you’re asking a question or asking more of a statement, so tell me about what you’re thinking about for school?”

Even if they’re not very responsive at first, she says the more often this happens, the more open they’ll typically become. Dr. Katzenstein says the key will be how you respond.

“If you have your child bring something really big to you and you really want to respond with a big emotion, let that emotion stay inside you the best you can," Dr. Katzenstein said.

She says stay calm, listen and step away if you have to. How you respond will impact whether they continue to share things with you in the future.

“Then the second piece of that, which is something as parents we don’t often put first is, our own mental health. So making sure that we’re monitoring our own signs and symptoms, we’re seeking out help when we need it and that we’re demonstrating those good coping skills for our kids," she said.

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