Children and adolescents receiving behavioral or mental health treatment programs may miss several weeks or months in the traditional school environment. This extended time away can present challenges for students returning to the classroom. Here are some challenges students may face when transitioning back to school and how you can help ease the transition after treatment.
Challenges School-Aged Patients May Face when Transitioning Back to School
During the treatment journey, school-aged patients are in a structured environment and adhere to a schedule that is designed to support their mental health. For patients who are school-aged, educational services are a key piece of supporting their path to wellness. When transitioning out of the treatment environment, it may be an adjustment to return to a more traditional school environment. Some of the most common challenges include the following:
- Fear of being disconnected from classmates
- Concerns about their academic progress
- Stress about rebuilding routines
When children transition back to school after treatment services, one of their biggest sources of anxiety might be what their classmates will think about their time away. Children and teens form friendships quickly, but children might worry after being disconnected socially from their friends for an extended period of time. They also might worry about what their friends assume about why they were not in school.
Some students might also worry about their academic progress in their classes. Many hospitals and facilities with school-aged patients provide virtual educational services during treatment; however, depending on the program the student may or may not have been working on their individual curriculum. Returning to school might trigger stressors for the student, especially if they are concerned about their academic progress.
Finally, after an extended time away, your child might have difficulty in returning to their traditional routine. Especially if their time in school was a contributing factor to their need for mental health support, your child might struggle to return to the schedule and stress of the school environment.
How to Ease the Transition Back to School
Here are a few things that you can implement that may help to ease the child’s transition back into school:
- A discharge plan – When a child exits mental health treatment, a discharge plan will be created. As part of this discharge plan, ongoing counseling and other services are likely to be recommended so that patients are fully supported when transitioning out of the treatment environment and back to a school environment.
- Communication with the student’s school when receiving treatment – It is crucial to maintain contact with the student’s school or district during mental health treatment. Schools are often able to provide individual student schoolwork that is covered in their curriculum or recommendations on what is being covered in the classroom as a focus for educational services during treatment. This helps to ease concerns both about academic progress and socialization once back in the school environment.
- Documentation of academic progress during treatment – Many behavioral health facilities treating school-aged patients are providing education during treatment. If there is documentation of the work the student completed available to share with their school or district when they return to school, the school can best understand their academic needs and support them appropriately when they return.
- Ongoing one-on-one tutoring support – Once the student returns to school, they may require additional support to help sustain academic progress, particularly in specific subject areas.
Children receiving behavioral or mental health treatment programs may miss several weeks or months in the traditional school environment. However, with a focus on these few things, the transition back to the traditional school environment can best support school-aged patients.