Back to school tips
Published at: 24 Jan 2020
WITH STUDENTS RETURNING TO SCHOOL FOR THE YEAR NEXT WEEK, IT CAN BE AN EMOTIONAL TIME FOR CHILDREN AND THEIR PARENTS.
Young people can experience a range of emotions when heading back to school, according to headspace Shepparton community awareness officer Leah Farnham.
“(These) include feelings of excitement and nerves,” she said.
“There can be a number of reasons why it might be hard to go to school: trying to make new friends, pressure to get the best marks, dealing with bullying, moving to a new school.
“These worries can make the weeks before going back to school uncertain.”
Ms Farnham said for any young person struggling, or any parents with concerns about their child, headspace was always there to help.
“I would say the most important thing for parents to do is assure their child that they will be there for them, and to set a good ‘back to school routine’,” she said.
“Sleep routine is key to a smooth transition back to school.”
Ms Farnham said most parents could tell when something was out of the ordinary with their child but there were also signs which indicated mental health issues.
“These are new and noticeable changes in the young person, lasting at least a few weeks, including not enjoying, or not wanting to be involved in things that they would normally enjoy, changes in appetite or sleeping patterns, being easily irritated or angry for no reason, seeming unusually stressed, worried, or down and/ or crying for no reason,” she said.
She encouraged parents in this position to talk openly and honestly with their child.
“Let them know that you are concerned, reassure them that you will be there for them, and ask what they need from you,” she said.
“Let them know that there is lots of help available.
“Help find an appropriate service, such as a headspace centre, and support them in attending and help them build a support network.”
Ms Farnham also encouraged parents to look after themselves as well.
“Get some support by talking to someone you trust and seek professional help for yourself if you need it.”
BULLYING STILL COMMON
Another factor that can cause emotion in the lead-up to school returning is bullying.
“Unfortunately bullying is super common,” Ms Farnham said.
“Almost a quarter of young people aged 14 to 25 reported being bullied in the previous 12 months.
“Bullying is not okay. It's not simply 'a normal part of growing up', and help is always available to make things better.
“If you're having problems with bullying, it's important to build your supports and know you’re not alone.
“Chat to someone about it, there's a high probability they will have gone through the same thing.”
Ms Farnham also provided tips for those who experience being bullied face-to-face.
“Stay calm. It can be really hard but learning not to feel or show that you're overwhelmed can help you feel better,” she said.
“It might also mean the bullying stops because you're not reacting to it.
“Try focusing on your breathing as a way to calm yourself.
“Try to keep your head held high and not give them the satisfaction of a reaction.
“You can always let your feelings out later when you're with your supportive networks.
“Don’t fight back. If you fight back you can make the situation worse, get hurt or be blamed for starting the trouble.”
Ms Farnham encouraged students to ignore their bully and calmly turn and walk away.
“If the person doing the bullying tries to stop or block you, try to be firm and clear,” she said.
“Having friends to stand with you or walk you away is a great idea in these moments.
“Try to avoid the person who is bullying you or ask a friend to stay with you when they're around.
“Tell a trusted adult what has happened straight away. This can help you to find ways to get the bullying to stop and overcome the negative feelings that can result from the bullying as soon as possible.
“It can also help you to prevent more serious health issues that can result from bullying in the future.”
PROTECT AGAINST CYBER BULLYING
With the rise of technology and, in particular, social media, bullying can now take place anywhere at any time.
Ms Farnham encouraged those being bullied online to report it immediately to the site where it is taking place.
“All social media platforms have a reporting system. It's anonymous, straightforward and depending on what you've reported, there's a chance it could get taken down quickly,” she said.
“Keep everything that is sent to you with screenshots, whether they're nasty comments, pictures or messages — try to get a permanent copy of it. This is so you can show these to someone you trust later on.
“If after 48 hours the image or content has not been removed by the site, or if you're feeling afraid or threatened, contact the eSafety Commissioner via www.esafety.gov.au/
“Don't give the people who are cyberbullying the satisfaction of an emotional response — don't feed the trolls!”
Ms Farnham also encouraged young people to talk to friends they trusted and let them know how they are feeling.
“Ask your friends to stand up for you by challenging the bullying in low-risk ways,” she said.
“Talk to your parents, carer, teacher or another trusted adult about what's happening.
“When parents and schools work together, this is the best way to address it.”
She also said to block the person or people from being able to contact you, and change your privacy settings to protect what you post on social media.
“Delete your current online account and start a new one if the bullying is persistent and ongoing. Only give your new details to a small list of trusted friends,” Ms Farnham said.
With school about to start, GV Health's health promotion officer Lucy Stephens said it was a great time to start thinking about students’ lunchboxes.
“What goes in lunchboxes is an important part of children's food intake as children have around a third of their daily food intake at school according to Nutrition Australia,” she said.
Ms Stephens said it was important lunchboxes contained food from each of the five food groups, which helped them to learn better and concentrate at school.
“Try to include grain foods, fruit, vegetables, dairy and meat or meat alternatives,” she said.
Ms Stephens shared some handy tips on how to get children eating a well-rounded diet at school.
“Getting children involved in choosing what goes in their lunchbox can help ensure children are eating nutritious foods but also foods they enjoy,” she said.
“Making sure water is the drink of choice is a fantastic start to a child’s nutrition.
“A lot of drinks that are styled as healthy often have a huge amount of sugar in them and can impact on children’s oral health.
“Water is the best drink and can be refilled at school throughout the day.”
Ms Stephens also reminded parents of the importance of food storage safety, particularly during the warmer months.
“Including a frozen ice block or frozen water bottle can help keep foods safe and cool such as yoghurt packets,” she said.
“A new trend of bento-box-style lunchboxes can be helpful to prevent foods from going soggy and also can be better for the environment as they limit the need for single-use plastic items such as plastic wrap for sandwiches.”
While Ms Stephens said there were great options available, these could also be expensive.
“So, finding a lunchbox at a price point that is good for your family budget and can keep food safe is the most important thing,” she said