Expert say it’s not too early to talk with kids about next school year

Published: Jul. 1, 2021 at 4:40 PM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - Even though life is getting back to normal, a local expert said adults and kids may still struggle with their mental health.

Dr. Jeremy Berry, a psychology professor at Texas A&M University Central Texas, said as life readjusts, we’ll probably start to see how the pandemic affects us in the long-term, and there will likely be some pretty big differences for everyone.

Dr. Berry said it’s especially important to check in with how kids are feeling. He said they are still developing personalities and behaviors, and can have a hard time talking about complicated emotions.

Dr. Berry said when kids get back to school this fall, there will likely be different emotions, and it’s not too early to start talking about them, especially if students were virtual learners.

“I would start having conversations with them about what face to face learning is going to look like,” Dr. Berry said. “Ask them about their concerns, trying to get them to communicate what they’re concerned about, what they’re worried about or what they’re excited about.”

Dr. Berry said it’s important to be aware of any changes in your child, even the small ones, because that’s an indication that something is going on. He said those changes can take different forms, anything from poor school performance, outbursts or aggression, or isolation and sadness.

Dr. Berry said if those changes aren’t addressed, it can lead to issues over time. He adds parents shouldn’t just chalk up changes as part of growing up.

“The mistake most people make most adults make, most parents make, is assuming that your experiences, x number of years ago were the same as your kids.” Dr. Berry said.

“The emotions are similar, but the context is wildly different. Technology’s changed, the environment has changed, politically, socially and otherwise. So what kids are experiencing is very different than what their parents experienced.”

Dr. Berry said parents need to be open to having difficult conversations with their kids, not only about mental health, but other topics as well. If parents aren’t sure where to start, dr. Berry said there are a lot of great resources online.

“It’s not a parenting fail to not know how to address depression in your child,” Dr. Berry said. “There’s a reason why clinicians go through years and years of training in school and experience to be able to deal with these things.”

Dr. Berry said if you’ve tried to talk with your child and don’t feel like you’re getting anywhere, or if you get frustrated every time you try and help, it’s time to consult a professional to help.

If you’re looking for resources on how to speak with your child, Dr. Berry suggested the National Mental Health Alliance, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration and The Trevor Project, which specifically helps LGBTQ teens, as good places to start. He said parents can also consult with a local mental health provider for help and other resources.

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