Back-to-school is an exciting time of year with the possibilities of new opportunities, friendships, and experiences. However, this time of year can also come with potential stressors and unique challenges for the students and the parents. Whether the student is a toddler going into early childhood education, or a teenager going to high school, some potential stressors in returning to school may include a disruption in the current routine, the student worrying about their grades, tests, homework, sports, fitting in, bullying, and learning difficulties. For students of immigrants, there may be the added stressors of potentially having to learn the English language or adjusting to cultural differences. Stressors could lead a student to feel isolated, depressed, or anxious. There are numerous actions that families can take to mitigate the stressors; a few include fostering resiliency by strengthening their relationships and values, as well as practicing protective factors and creating consistent routines to help the students succeed and thrive in this school year.
Resiliency is a value of the Latine community, and there are myriad activities families can practice to foster resiliency. Yan et al. (2021) explained how routines act as a protective factor for children’s mental development. Consistency in daily routines provides a level of security related to structure and predictability that promote self-emotion regulation. Morris et al. (2023) also discuss other protective factors:
“Protective and compensatory experiences (PACES) are related to less depression, anxiety, substance use, difficulties in emotion regulation, and life stress. Examples of PACES include supportive relationships such as unconditional love from a caregiver; having a best friend; volunteering in the community; being part of a group; and having a mentor.”
At El Futuro, we provide an avenue to help families attain these protective and compensatory experiences; through therapy and through community in the Therapeutic Garden located at the Durham office. We help families strengthen their relationships, especially with the family-centric approach. People may have a misconception that therapy is only for those who have experienced trauma or that therapy is only to talk about the past; however, at El Futuro, we focus our services towards people’s goals and dreams in life, that is why we often ask our patients, “What are your dreams?”
Every person, every student, can benefit from therapy, even if they feel they haven’t had a traumatic event or if they think they don’t ‘need it.’ Therapy can serve as a prevention or treatment for many mental health difficulties that students may be experiencing due to school or home circumstances and stressors. Seligman and Ollendick (2011) determined that cognitive behavioral therapies (CBTs) effectively treat anxiety disorders in children and adolescents.
At El Futuro, we also offer our Therapeutic Garden, where families come together and enjoy being outside, in nature, with fresh air and community. According to Jimenez et al. (2021), exposure to green space has many health benefits, including improved mental health and cognitive development for children, less psychological distress in teenagers, reduced ADHD behaviors, and decreased self-reported depression, anxiety, and stress. You don’t have to be a client to participate in the benefits of the Therapeutic Garden; everyone is welcome. Parents have expressed that they love bringing their children to the Therapeutic Garden at El Futuro because the children love to play in the creek. If you are a student or a student’s parent, remember that El Futuro is here for you, and if you feel stressed, know that you don’t have to face these stressors alone. Returning to school doesn’t have to feel like you are on a sinking ship. Specific practices like going to therapy, playing in the green space, strengthening family relationships, and creating healthier, stable routines can help families easily transition into the school year and face whatever challenges come their way more resiliently.
Article written by Candy Moreira BSN RN
Jimenez, M. P., DeVille, N. V., Elliott, E. G., Schiff, J. E., Wilt, G. E., Hart, J. E., & James, P. (2021). Associations between Nature Exposure and Health: A Review of the Evidence. International journal of environmental research and public health, 18(9), 4790.
Morris, A. S., & Hays-Grudo, J. (2023). Protective and compensatory childhood experiences and their impact on adult mental health. World psychiatry : official journal of the World Psychiatric Association (WPA), 22(1), 150–151.