Family Health

Back-to-School Success: How To Help Students and Families Thrive

Published: Aug. 23, 2022

A new school year often spurs heightened levels of curiosity and apprehension among many parents – especially amid ongoing pandemic uncertainties.

Will my child feel anxious?

Can we avoid serious illness?

How well will we adapt to e-learning if necessary?

Although it’s important to acknowledge the challenges many families have faced over the past couple years, there’s one question most parents and students likely have: How can I make the best transition from summer to school to ensure academic success?


Be Prepared and Proactive

Being emotionally prepared and proactive is the first step toward a successful school year. Students need to prepare for school – much like an athlete needs to prepare for their sport. A big part of that preparation is mental wellness. Kids need to pay attention to how they feel mentally and emotionally in order to cope with stressful situations and foster a successful school experience.

Here are four tips to help kids and families positively cultivate their emotional well-being:

1. Healthy thinking. Mental wellness is greatly impacted by what we say to ourselves. This is often referred to as self-talk. When it’s positive and we think good thoughts, we’re happier and more confident.

Every morning and night, get into the habit of telling yourself uplifting things about yourself. Encourage your kids to do the same, or – better yet – do it with them. There’s something good in each of us. Remind them of how awesome they are.

2. Healthy hygiene. Look good, smell good and feel good. Bathe routinely, try a new soap or experiment with a new hairstyle. If your kiddos are too young to fix their own hair, offer to help. Our confidence is automatically boosted when we feel clean and put together.

Also, good hygiene – especially hand hygiene – helps prevent illness. So encourage frequent hand-washing.

3. Healthy “me” time. Take a break from social media and screen time. Find a quiet place to reflect. For children, that might mean undistracted time to color or read. Consider using quiet time to prepare for when things might go wrong. Make a go-to list of things that help you feel less stressed when the unexpected happens.

Also, recognize your feelings and make time for them. If you’re sad, mad or thinking negative thoughts, set a time limit to think about it so you can move on.

4. Healthy beliefs. Each day, identify and prioritize what’s truly important to you. Parents can help kids identify, explore and reflect on family values and beliefs. Time and energy are best spent with those we love and on events that hold significance, not on issues with no true worth.


Staying the Course

The transition from summer to school can often be more challenging for parents. But our kids count on us – and their teachers – to give them the best shot at success. Again, patience, preparation and positivity are key. It often takes more than flashcards and homework for students to thrive academically.

If you feel your child is having difficulty coping and could use some outside help, the Methodist Hospital Community Counseling Program offers counseling services to students in each middle school, high school and alternative program in Omaha Public Schools. Counselors are also available to community members at various locations across Omaha.

More Resources

About the Author

With over 30 years of experience in the mental health field, Ellen McElderry, LIMHP, LADC, has seen firsthand how providing the best behavioral health care can make a positive impact on a person’s life. Now, as the program manager for the Methodist Hospital Community Counseling Program, she’s driven to support her team and deliver that exceptional care to our communities.

“I want clients to know that they’ll receive quality care in a confidential setting in the comfort of their own neighborhood and community,” she said. “We’re able to serve people in their school, church, office – or even their home with telehealth.”

See more articles from Ellen McElderry
Ellen McElderry