School definitely has its advantages and downsides, however, for several minority groups, it has more of the latter. Going back to school isn't just schoolwork for many kids of color; there are many who are also responsible to contribute financially to the household income, and/or to help look after other siblings, among other chores.
These added tasks tend to create more stress, and anxiety that affect the mental health of many students due to having to worry about more than just homework. Many families of color have been raised through trauma, and unfortunately that gets passed down to younger generations. That abuse develops into mental illnesses and unhealthy behaviors that are inherited as survival tactics.
I spoke to a school-based social worker here in Austin, Walkiria Raposo, about this social issue in our community and she finds that students of color, particularly black and brown boys, continue to be most at risk. They lack academic achievement and a support system, creating a disconnection with school. She also states that young girls of color are also at risk, specifically young Latinas, who show to be most at risk for suicide.
Walkiria is an Afro-Latina who grew up with the same economic background as her students in a predominantly black and brown neighborhood in New York City, and she sees that connection as a catalyst in building meaningful relationships with them that are truly authentic.
She provides her high school students with individual/group crisis counseling, social emotional learning (SEL) lessons, partners with local agencies to provide added support for students at her school, and connect them and their families with community resources.
She suggests a few tips in hopes that regardless of the societal and systemic roadblocks that students face, they know that they do matter, that they are deserving, and that they can make a difference.
Check in with your student
Returning to school can be a stressful time for kids of all ages. Check in with them and talk about their upcoming semester. Let them know that it can bring up different feelings and emotions, like fear and anxiety, but that it is normal. Affirm their value and validate their emotions, because they are not alone.
Make time for fun!
Summer break is over but that doesn't mean the fun has to be! There are many school and community activities that students can participate in to maintain balance from the stress homework can cause. The anxiety is real, so listen to your child and be aware of when a distraction is necessary to relieve their mind from the schoolwork.
Help your students be prepared and organized.
Besides motivation, students need rest, good meals, and the proper supplies and access to educational materials. These things are definitely lacking from underserved communities, however, your child's counselor or social worker can recommend community resources to aid in this need.
Ask for help when you need it.
Let your student know that it is okay to ask for help, and that there is room for imperfection, after all, we're human.
Back to School Giveaway
We've started a new Facebook group for the moms and dads of curly kids in our community. We're giving away back to school products to for those of you who join!
Here's how to enter
Join the NaturallyCurly Curly Kids Facebook Group and post a photo of their child and explain the child’s current curl routine, concerns and back to school hair care needs.