With the first week of school officially in the books, mental health experts are looking at ways to support kids, parents and caregivers during these uncertain times.

Going back to school usually leads to added stress and anxiety for kids and their families and Hands TheFamilyHelpNetwork.ca is looking to make things easier with a Back-to-School Mental Health Kit.

Child and Youth Mental Health Manager at Hands Kelly Smirle says with COVID-19, it’s especially important to ensure kids understand what the new rules are.

“It’s important to encourage them to develop their own new routines that are going to work for them and staying positive is also important,” she said. “As parents, we’re feeling really anxious, it’s okay to validate our kids’ concerns and say, ‘yeah this is kind of scary,’ but there are lots of things in place to ensure your kids are staying healthy during this time.”

With the delivery of education changed so dramatically this year – whether learning from home or in-person at school – Smirle says mental health experts anticipate an increased impact on the mental health of kids and their families.

The Mental Health Kit provides six tips to support mental wellness with the school year underway.

Smirle says families should encourage their kids to be curious and ask lots of questions.

“Help them recognize when they are feeling nervous or anxious or need a break. Parents can talk to their kids about how they know if they’re feeling scared or worried and how they can reach out. Do they have a nervous feeling in their belly, can they talk to a teacher? That’s really important in going back to school and supporting kids.”

Through the pandemic, Hands has continued to help clients and families by providing online and telephone-based services.

Smirle says people should take advantage of these resources if they have concerns about their kids’ mental health.

“It’s important to communicate if your child is already really nervous and anxious, it’s a really good idea to reach out to communicate that with the teacher ahead of time and say ‘how can we support them?’ This will help get those internal supports involved like social workers at the school and connecting them with Hands.”

Hands now offer bookings for online counselling clinics Tuesdays and Thursdays, 11 a.m.-7 p.m.

You can book an appointment by calling 1 800 668-8555.