by Dr. Gladys I. Cruz
Questar III BOCES
We are now one week into a new school year and with it comes mixed feelings for children and adults alike. I hope everyone is settling back into the routines and expectations for the year ahead. The first several weeks are about helping students feel comfortable and confident in their new environment.
Locally, students returned to schools that have seen some changes since they left in June, including staff retirements, building projects, and new staff. The changes also include new superintendents at Hudson, Ichabod Crane, and Taconic Hills, and new principals and assistant principals in other districts.
The back-to-school season can be a bittersweet time, with some excited about the fresh start and possibilities; for others, it can be a stressful time due to the unknowns. Moreover, adjusting to a new district, school or teacher can be difficult for some students. This means a new environment, new teachers, and often, new friends.
The C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital Poll on Children’s Health recently asked a national sample of parents to rate their level of concern about various school topics. The top three concerns were: 1) overuse of devices/screen times, 2) social media, and 3) internet safety. Two-thirds of the surveyed parents expressed concerns about their child’s increased use of social media and screen time – these were the number one and two concerns on last year’s list as well.
This is an opportune time to think about modeling healthy use of screen time and how to appropriately monitor device or social media usage to prevent negative impacts that may interfere with your child’s well-being or behavior. There is growing research indicating the negative impact of social media on students’ mental health. In fact, the Surgeon General issued an advisory about this last May.
Half of parents surveyed also expressed concern with a lack of mental health services. Please contact your child’s private physician or school personnel to address any ongoing or emerging concerns. Our schools, counties and state have resources to assist families – you do not have to do this alone. Please visit www.mentalhealthednys.org or https://omh.ny.gov for resources. You may also dial 988 for the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, or text “FRONTLINENY” to 741-741 for specialized support.
Just as it is important for families to understand their children’s needs, it is important for teachers to get to know their students in the weeks ahead. We need students to feel comfortable speaking with parents and educators alike about their concerns throughout the year.
Parents, guardians, caretakers, and educators all play an important role in instilling confidence in young people. Checking in with kids can help minimize issues before they turn into bigger challenges. Talk to students about where they may struggle or need extra help and how you can support them. Promote a growth mindset and the ability to learn from setbacks. This is important so that students continue to want to be in school. We must work together to ensure that our students attend school – this is important to their academic, social, and emotional well-being.
Our families are our students’ first and most important teachers. Please work with your child’s teachers and school staff to stay informed about their progress and work together to address any challenges.
Here are some other ways that parents and guardians can get involved:
- Volunteer: Offer your time to assist with various activities, such as reading to kids, chaperoning field trips, or assisting with extracurricular activities.
- Attend a Parent Night: Many schools host parent nights to start the school year. Attend to get informed and engage in your child’s education.
- Join the PTA: Parent-teacher associations enable parents and educators to build a rapport and discuss programs and other opportunities to enhance students’ learning experience. It’s a great way to stay engaged and ensure your school has the support it needs.
- Participate in Fundraisers: Schools often rely on additional funds raised by the community to support special programs. Get involved by participating in or supporting these important efforts.
- Advocate for Your School: This could involve advocating for changes or support at the state or federal level that benefits your local school and students.
As we begin a new school year, let’s work together to enhance the new beginnings and possibilities for our students. Let’s build partnerships and coalitions to support our region’s students and public schools. Best wishes for a productive school year!
This column appeared in the Register Star and The Daily Mail newspapers.