Healthwise: Lubbock psychiatrist helps parents look for back-to-school stressors

Published: Aug. 22, 2023 at 10:52 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Are you getting a good vibe when your kids get home from school? Or are you sensing that there could be something bothering them during this first full week of the school year?

Dr. Sarah Mallard Wakefield is the Chair of Psychiatry at the Texas Tech University Health Science Center. Today, she shared her expertise with dozens of parents and grandparents at an annual women’s luncheon sponsored by the Laura Bush Women’s Institute for Women’s Health.

The subject was how to deal with back-to-school stressors. The most important thing, she says, is to talk to your kids.  She says transitions are hard for everybody. So, there is nothing wrong with telling kids when something new feels hard for parents too.

And if you sense they are feeling anxious, she says ask, “What is it you’re feeling nervous about?”

Wakefield says bullying has become a problem that could go to school with them and follow them home again later.

“We can see this through texting, through group tracks, through social media. It’s like the bullying doesn’t stop,” she says. “So sometimes, there’s no safe haven. You don’t leave school and get a safe haven from that. Sometimes, you don’t even get that safe haven while you’re in class. The phones are going off and you have access to that.”

She says the best thing parents can do is to set an example in where and how you use your own phone.  

“Many of us have adopted very unhealthy behaviors around the use of technology in our devices. So, modeling some healthy behaviors, talking about those.”

Talking is the key word she emphasized the most at the luncheon today. Specifically, talking to your kids is so important to understand the good things and any bad things that might be going on at school, especially if they tell you they do not want to go.

“Are they feeling overwhelmed? Or are they being bullied?” She says. “Investigating what that school refusal is about, and then working as soon as possible with your shared colleagues at school who care so much about your kids. And what are some strategies that can help them feel more comfortable and confident in that environment?”