Back to school season begins at the end of summer, so it’s normal to hear about all things back-to-school. Kids and parents alike enjoy shopping for new school clothes and accessories at this time of year.
You should note, however, that students aren’t talking about a new, cute piece of jewelry when they talk about back-to-school necklaces. You might hear or see it in conversation or on social media as a troubling phrase (that doesn’t seem alarming at first glance). Back-to-school necklaces are exactly what they sound like, right? Let us explain.
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What is a back to school necklace? What does it mean?
Back-to-school necklaces are described as “another term for a noose. It alludes to the despair experienced when school resumes.”
There are some examples of its use: “I’m about to buy my back-to-school necklace,” “I can’t wait to get one,” “I’m thinking about getting it,” “I’m calling it,” “I’m looking forward to wearing it,” etc.
Even though a back-to-school necklace sounds innocent enough, it actually signals death by hanging as a cry for help. It is better for parents to assist their children once they are educated about this term.
Is it a good idea to discuss this trending back-to-school necklace phrase with your kids?
Psychotherapist and maternal-infant health social worker Samantha Westhouse, LLMSW, suggests letting your child lead the conversation if you’re not sure how to proceed. “Let’s begin by asking, ‘I heard about back-to-school necklaces – do you know anything about them?'” she suggests. “I believe that an open conversation is a good thing. It is important to refrain from judgment so that your child feels comfortable sharing how they are feeling.”
You can make a big difference just by checking in. Emily Cavaleri, LLMSW, a school social worker and child and family therapist, believes that parents should feel empowered to discuss mental health with their children. As far as back-to-school conversations are concerned, she says, “Share personal stories about your feelings of dread when you first started school, especially if you felt that way as a child.” Ensure that they know you’re there for them if they need professional help or to work through any feelings they may have.”
When the school year starts, why do students feel such dread?
It is understandable that students are apprehensive as they prepare to adjust to a new routine after summer vacation. For a variety of reasons, returning to school can feel overwhelming, Cavaleri explains. Students are going from sleeping in to an early morning schedule and a relaxed schedule to a new school, a new teacher, and so on.”
It is often difficult for students to overcome these struggles. A 40 percent increase in sadness or hopelessness has been observed among high school students since 2009 according to the CDC.
According to Westhouse, it may be a combination of socialization over the past two years combined with age. When we were all in lockdown, 13-year-olds were only 10 years old. Their education was virtual, and they were deprived of regular clubs and sports and socialization. Add in mass school shootings and what has happened in our world in the last few years, and it all makes a difference.”
What should parents look out for when it comes to warning signs?
There is a high likelihood that someone who uses this phrase is experiencing mental health issues, Cavaleri says. There are several signs that you may see if your child is contemplating suicide or using this phrase to ask for help, including spending time alone, acting withdrawn, being irritable, crying frequently, sleeping more than usual, having difficulty sleeping, losing interest in things they used to enjoy, giving away belongings, and generally changing behavior.”
Cavaleri points out that your child may use this phrase on their phones even if you have not heard them use it. According to her, they may send it via text or use it on social media platforms. From young children to adolescents, parents should be aware of their children’s use of electronic devices. Students of any age can use this phrase and have these feelings, so look for signs in your children.
Is it important for students to know about the phrase “back-to-school-necklace” when they hear or use it with their friends?
Cavaleri cautions students not to joke around about harming and even killing themselves. Feelings like these should not be ashamed and people should seek help if they are experiencing them. In the event that students hear or see their friends using this phrase, they should tell an adult, regardless of whether they are told not to by their friends.”
Despite your child or teen’s quick dismissal, Westhouse says that they ought to know “that it’s serious, even if they think it’s a joke.” It is important that you educate your children regarding this and encourage them to discuss it with school staff.”
Can you recommend any resources to help children and teenagers who are feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of going back to school?
It is the parents’ responsibility to be the first line of support for their children. By volunteering or communicating regularly with teachers and administrators, parents can help facilitate healthy decision-making, “spend time with their adolescent enjoying shared activities,” and be involved with their school.
CDC reports that about 1 in 6 youth made a suicide plan in the past year, a 44% increase since 2009. Westhouse would also advocate for schools to have a policy in place to help students.
Preparing your child for school early can help them feel less overwhelmed with going back to school. Cavaleri suggests getting organized, visiting the school if allowed, sleeping well, and eating healthy.”
In the end, knowledge is power, and parents can have a greater awareness and seek additional support when they know that this is a problem affecting many children and teenagers. Regardless of whether you need therapy or the new 988 suicide helpline, both Westhouse and Cavaleri recommend seeking it.