- Mental Health
- Substance Use
- Healthy Living
When I was little, there was always one night every year when it was pretty much guaranteed that I would not be able to get to sleep. Every year, on this one specific night, I would go downstairs to where my parents were hanging out to declare that I could not get to sleep. So what came around every year that would cause me so much worry? The first day of school.
While it might have been the same kids in my class from year to year, the same school, and even maybe the same teacher…that sense of unknown about what the first day was going to be like and how the entire year ahead was going to play out caused me huge concern every September. Guaranteed however, was that when I was asked how my first day of school went, I would be smiling ear to ear about seeing all my friends again after the summer break and excited about all the fun things I was going to learn that year. While the first day of school always turned out just fine, every year it was pretty much the same story the night before.
While my experience with “night before school worries” is not uncommon among kids, it can be simple for adults to either disregard or be unaware of the challenges that kids can face in their day-to-day lives, such as the stress of going back to school, going to gym class, or having a fight with a friend. Perhaps these challenges might even seem minor when compared to the stresses that adults have to face. But the truth is that no matter what your age, everyone encounters challenges or stressful events in their lives. While not all stress is bad, it is important to be able to identify and take appropriate action when stress starts to have negative effects on your child’s thoughts, feelings, or behaviour.
The Healthy Living…It’s in Everyone toolkit for families includes a whole section on stress management, including tips from other families for managing stress. There are many strategies that families can try to help kids deal with difficult situations, including relaxation strategies, behavioural strategies, and cognitive strategies. An example of a cognitive strategy is learning to think about a stressful situation in a more helpful or positive way. In order to help kids learn to do this, we have developed an interactive healthy thinking activity based on the content of the Healthy Living Toolkit for Families. This online activity allows kids to work through various common stressful situations and to identify helpful ways of thinking when faced with these types of situations.
Parents are encouraged to try out the healthy thinking activity with their child and to encourage them to identify more helpful ways of thinking about other challenging situations in their lives as well. By learning strategies to deal with difficult situations at an early age, kids can begin to develop the skills to be able to handle life’s challenges no matter what their age.