This article has two sections. The first is general management information from the Vancouver Island Health Authority, with some common sense tactics. The second is from University of British Columbia with the recommendation to find a furry friend. -SPN
From VIHA: Back to school tips to combat anxiety and stress
School starts next week and while some children may be excited to see friends and get back into a routine, other children will feel anxious and worried.
“It’s very common for children and youth to experience anxiety and stress as they head back to school,” says Island Health Psychologist, Lisa Van Bruggen, Ph.D. “Take steps now to support the transition from summer to school. Return to structured sleep and wake times. Try role-playing through what may be socially challenging situations for some children such as not having close friends in class or being assigned a tough teacher. Having a plan can reduce anxiousness.”
Here are some tips to prepare for back to school and signals that your child might need extra support.
Tips for parents and guardians to support students:
- Get into a routine now: set sleep and wake times
- Plan nutritious meals and snacks
- Have your child involved in choosing some of the back-to-school materials and clothing
- Talk to your child about their worries and then try role-playing through those situations
- Take some time to practice walking, biking or bussing to school
- Set up regular talk-time throughout the school year to encourage your child to share fears
- Help your child develop healthy coping and problem-solving skills
- Focus on the positive and celebrate small accomplishments
- Frequently attempts to remain at home
- Refuses to attend school on certain days
- Worries constantly or shows extreme shyness
- Raises physical complaints with no medical explanation (stomach aches, headaches, difficulty catching his or her breath)
- Throws tantrums, cries or screams excessively
- Begins to act ‘out of character’
Youth aged 15 to 24 years may benefit from an app called BoosterBuddy created by Island Health and funded by Coast Capital Savings. The self-manage support system encourages users to share their feelings, keep track of appointments and medications, use coping skills, and follow self-care routines.
From UBC: Stressed for back to school? Find a furry friend
Just 20 minutes with a dog significantly reduces student stress, according to new UBC Okanagan research
As students prepare their return to the classroom, many are searching for strategies to improve their mental health and manage the stress that can come with a rigorous study and project schedule.
Research from UBC’s Okanagan campus has found that brief, but concentrated animal therapy sessions can significantly improve mental health and may be a valuable tool for students to better manage stress.
“Our research has proven that short animal therapy sessions significantly reduce both stress and a feeling of homesickness in students,” says Faculty of Education Assistant Professor John-Tyler Binfet. “Yet, that same session with a therapy dog significantly increases a student’s sense of belonging to their school.”
Binfet notes that attending post-secondary can be a highly stressful experience. For some, it means moving away from home for the first time and leaving pets behind, along with increased academic expectations, time-management challenges and new social demands.
For the past five years at UBC Okanagan, Binfet has offered a drop-in animal-assisted therapy program called B.A.R.K. (Building Academic Retention through K9s). His program was recently cited in Psychology Today as one of the most innovative, and largest, pet therapy programs at a post-secondary institution.
Previous B.A.R.K. research proves canine therapy works, and for his current research Binfet wanted to know how much time was needed to start seeing results. Participating students completed a brief demographic survey along with pre-and post-stress, homesickness and belonging measures.
Results were published this summer in Anthrozoös, the top Human-Animal Interaction journal, identifying that just 20 minutes with a therapy dog resulted in significant reductions in stress and homesickness compared to control participants.
“I’m actually at the point where I’m telling parents ‘If you want your child to keep his/her stress in check and succeed at university make sure they are aware of, and use, animal therapy if it’s available at their school,’” Binfet says.
Elevated levels of stress have been associated with anxiety and depression. According to a national survey of colleges and universities, more than 50 per cent of students in post-secondary environments report feeling hopeless, and of that group 40 per cent report high depression levels.
“It is becoming increasingly common for post-secondary administrators to expand the support available to students to ensure they are socially and emotionally sustained,” Binfet says. “Providing opportunities for stress reduction through canine-assisted therapy could impact students’ engagement in classes, their achievement, and decrease drop-out rates in post-secondary settings.”
Although more research is needed, he agrees animal-assisted therapy programs could be a useful way to support mental-health initiatives in post-secondary school environments. More information about Binfet’s research can be found at barkubc.ca.