As a teacher and a parent of four children, one of whom has bipolar disorder, some days I find myself staring at my computer screen, my mind frozen. What was I doing? Which of these 17 extremely urgent open internet browser tabs should I tackle first? Do I even dare check my email in-box? How long before I have to get dinner on the table? In the midst of my frozen panicked state, my Outlook calendar pings me to remind me it’s “Mindful Monday,” and I’m going to be late for the mindfulness workshop (again).
A suicide epidemic currently exists among teens. In fact, you’ve probably heard many startling statistics, such as that suicide is the second-leading cause of death between ages 10 and 34, according to the National Institute for Mental Health. And maybe you’ve heard that 8.6% of high school students attempted suicide in the past 12 months, according to The American Foundation of Suicide Prevention.
When children are struggling with mental health issues, their performance at school is often one of the first indicators. Your child’s teachers are in the unique position to observe their academic performance, day-to-day mood, interactions with peers and authority figures, and overall functioning in an environment full of social rules and expectations. Teachers have their eyes on many factors that indicate your child’s well-being; and they also have the ability to see changes over the course of the school year. Depending on the size of the school and community, teachers may also have knowledge of your child’s activities and social life outside of the classroom.
Is your child normally engaged and motivated but suddenly having trouble paying attention? Are they more withdrawn than usual? It might be tempting to write this off as just laziness or a passing “phase.” Yet this might be a sign of a larger problem. In fact, social withdrawal and isolation is often one of the first signs of a possible eating disorder.
It’s your child’s bedtime and you’re dreading it. Instead of the calm process you wish it was, it’s filled with tears, pleading, and excuses after excuses. Peacefully reading bedtimes stories is a thing of the past while the stubborn phrase “I’m not tired!” is here to stay. Why is your child avoiding going to bed? Is this normal?
Many parents are familiar with Individual Education Plans (IEPs), which are an important part of the school day for children with disabilities. IEPs lay out the specific program of support, services and special education needed to help them succeed. You might not be as familiar with 504 Plans, a similar kind of educational plan but with one key difference. A 504 Plan can be used to help children with mental health challenges do better in school, without removing them from the regular classroom.