Mental-health official says communication and parental self-care are key as kids go back to school

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Many children going back to school for the first time during the pandemic and experiencing the changes that come with it may be feeling anxious, scared, angry or sad.

Robbin Cole, Pawnee Mental Health Services executive director, spoke with KMAN about a few ways parents can help their kids deal with these emotions.

She says the first step parents can take toward helping their kids is to care for themselves.

“If we’re wanting to be the most helpful to our children that we can possibly be, we have to start with making sure we’re okay,” Cole said.

According to Cole, doing so is important because children often act similarly to their parents.

“Even though they go through periods in their lives where it seems like they reject things that we try to teach or the things that we stand for, they still really do tend to model after us,” Cole said.

Another step parents can take to help their kids deal with certain emotions is to ask them about their day.

Cole says parents can let their kids know that it is okay to feel those emotions and that they can overcome what they are experiencing.

“It’s letting them know that the circumstance they’re in aren’t going to last forever and that they’re not alone in those circumstances,” Cole said. “That there are a lot of people who understand what it is that they’re going through and what it is that they’re feeling.”

When it comes to conversations about children and resiliency, however, Cole advises caution.

“It can used to imply that no matter what happens to kids, they’ll bounce back,” Cole said. “So I have some problems with that idea when it’s used to sort of dismiss the impact of trauma or adversity in kids’ lives.”

It is also important to not be afraid to reach out for help when it is needed.

Pawnee Mental Health Services has a variety of services available for children, including through local school districts.

PMHS has counselors serving in six school districts, including Manhattan-Ogden USD 383.

For more information about PMHS services, visit pawnee.org.

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