From pressure around grades to anxiety about transitions, bullying or home-related tensions such as divorce, some kids will start this new school year facing a host of issues. “One of the big, big issues is immigration,” says Suzanne Silverstein, M.A., founding director of the Cedars-Sinai Share & Care program. “Because a number of them are really anxious as to what’s going to happen to their family, to their parents.”
Since 1994, Share & Care has been helping students with a host of mental-health challenges that might impact their ability to learn. Silverstein shares her advice for parents.
What are some signs that a child might be experiencing something distressing at school?
Very often, if the child is having a hard time, they have a stomach ache or they have a headache and they don’t want to go to school.
Are there things that a parent can do to get their kids to start to open up and talk with them?
They could model and share. Maybe they had a hard time in school. If the parent describes their hard time, that begins to give kids permission. If parents talk about their feelings, then a child tends to be more comfortable talking about his or her feelings.
If a child reveals that something distressing is happening at school, how should parents react?
You really want to listen. Hear what your child is saying, but don’t lose your temper. You want to understand it from your child’s point of view. Then it would be helpful if the parent goes and talks with the teacher.
What are some signs that a family might need help dealing with a school-related situation?
I wouldn’t wait until it became a total disaster.
If a child’s grades are continuing to go down, a child is really resistant or doesn’t want to go to school, or if younger kids are starting to wet the bed again, seek some professional help.
What kinds of help are available?
I always tell parents, first check with your insurance. Give them the area that you would like your child seen in. I would start with a social worker or a psychologist that specializes in children and families.
Another thing that is very helpful for a parent is to become involved in the school. Then the parent will get a feel for the school, which will then help them to help their child.
Share & Care operates in the Los Angeles Unified School District, offering 12-week programs for kids having trouble with PTSD, self-esteem, making friends, divorce, anger management and other issues. Learn more at cedars-sinai.org/community.html