Timely back to school advice from a mental health community partner of ours that serves many of our Kinship Kids.

Back to School: Practical Tips for Kids with Mental Health Disabilities

By, Eowyn T. Gatlin-Nygaard, LICSW -Headway Therapist


For many kids going to back to school means making new friends, learning, and growing. But for kids who have a mental health disability, going back to school comes with some unique challenges. 

Not only do they have to navigate the regular stuff, like new classrooms and new rules, but they also have to manage their mental health symptoms-which can be overwhelming for both kids and their parents or caregivers. If you are the parent or caregiver of a child with a mental health disability, there are a few things you can do to make the transition back to school a little easier.

Perhaps the most important thing you can do is check in with your child before the school year starts. Set aside time to have a conversation and find out what they are both excited and nervous about. Review things they struggled with last school year, such as staying in the classroom or getting along with peers, then come up with a few strategies to address these concerns and building on what has worked before. Once their concerns and yours have been addressed, steer the conversation toward some of the regular things kids look forward to about the start of the school year, like what outfit they can wear on the first day or what activities they want to do.

Sometimes kids will say they have no concerns and that nothing will go wrong this year, but that is most likely wishful thinking. If your child does this, let them know that while you want the year to go well too, it is normal for kids who have mental health disabilities to struggle at times.  Be sure to let them know that you will love and support them even if some of last year's problems resurface.  This is important because kids often feel like they've failed if their symptoms return or worsen. It is important for both you and your child to go into the school year with reasonable expectations.  As the saying goes, "Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst."


Another thing you can do early in the school year or even the week before school starts, is connect with your child's teachers and guidance staff. When you talk with them, let them know what concerns you and your child have, and work with them to find solutions. 

If your child has a 504 Plan or Individualized Education Plan (IEP), this is a great time to explore what the accommodations in it will look like this year and review what worked and didn't work last school year.  IEPs and 504 Plans are legal documents that ensure school staff and parents are on the same page with regards to supporting students with disabilities.

 If your child is not on an IEP or 504 Plan, consult with school staff for more information and to see if getting one would be helpful. When you check in with school staff at the start of the year, make sure to also let them know about positive things in your child's life and what your child's hopes are for the new school year.

Raising a child with a mental health disability isn't easy and no family does it without help. Keeping an open dialogue with your child about their mental health and seeking support can make a huge difference in helping children cope with mental health symptoms. If at any time you feel your child needs more support, reach out to the school or check in with Headway to see what type of support is available.  If we can't help, we'll gladly refer you to someone who can.  

For More information on how we can help, click HERE


Quarter Connection 1.17

Starting this year stay in touch with Kinship every quarter through "Keeping Up With Kinship" and "Quarter Connection". Read about matches through "Meet A Match", see our Community Partners in action, and stay up to date with all programming updates. 

The Need: Hundreds of metro area children and youth are in need of positive relationships with stable, caring adult mentors. Most of these children come from single parent or grandparent led households and some have an incarcerated parent. Often the adults are justly focused on family stability issues and have limited time available to provide guidance.

The Program: Kinship provides quality mentoring for youth who face significant economic and social barriers, ages 5 to 18, living in the greater metropolitan area. The program connects children and youth with caring adults, couples and families. Furthermore, Kinshipnurtures positive self-esteem and character development, strengthens connections to school and community, and is respectful & welcoming of all faiths.

Who We Serve: A majority of the participating children live in poverty and are in need of positive role models and guidance. At this age, preventive intervention is most successful. Youth are most open to envisioning a positive future and embracing the steps they need to take to reach their goals. This period of growth is an ideal time to benefit from the skills of a strong mentor.


Meet a Match!

Mentor Danielle and mentee Saray are celebrating 1 year 8 months as a Kinship Match. Recently, Kinship Program Manager, Jerod Petersen had a chance to catch up with these two to see how things have been going. 

Jerod: "To start, Danielle, why did you want to start mentoring? And Saray, Why did you want a mentor?"
Danielle: "I was looking for more interpersonal, one-on-one time with youth. Through other volunteer programs with kids in the city, I noticed the impact this could have."
Saray: "To do things when I'm not busy doing sports."

J: "What have been one or two of your most memorable outings/adventures?"
S: "When we first went to Danielle's house and made homemade superman pizzas.
D: "Our apple orchard day that spontaneously also turned into a Twin Cities Home tour day. It was fun to dream together."

J: " What about your favorite spot/place/outing?"
Both: "The Science Museum!"

J: "Would you say that having a Kinship friend (Mentor or kid) in your life has han an impact on you?  If so how?"
D: "Yes. Mentoring has shown me the value investing time in one person outside of your work and friend circle can have. Saray has opened my eyes to the challenges many kids in our community have to endure and overcome. She is kind, curious, respectful and has a grateful spirit."
S: "Yes, it gets me to go out and see the world more."

J: " What would you say is the best attribute about each other?"
D: " Saray is caring. She shows kindness and respect to new faces. I see and hear this through our shared experiences and her stories about family and school."
S: "Danielle is loving. She helps me when I'm down and sad.

J: "What is something you've each come to learn about each other since you've been matched?"
D: "I've learned that Saray is very strong and mature for her age.
S: "I've learned Danielle has her own style, like only wearing basic colors like black and gray."

J: "Danielle, If knew someone who was thinking about mentoring a kinship kid, but they had doubts about being able to do it, what would you tell them?"
D: "[I would tell them that] Kinship is a supportive and engaged organization. Free programs in the city make outings exciting and interesting for both mentor and mentee. It's rewarding and touching to see your relationship grown over time. Don't be afraid or worried if trust takes longer to earn. It's normal and worth it."

J: "Saray, If you could tell a peer/friend why they should have a mentor what would you say?"
S: "[I would tell them that] Having a mentor is really fun because you get to do things you normally wouldn't do at home and it helps give you a positive attitude." 
Over 125 Kinship Kids are waiting to be matched with reliable, caring, and encouraging mentors like Danielle. If you or someone you know is interested in becoming a mentor contact Kinship today! 

Jerod Petersen, LGSW

Community Partnership Recap

Kinship's partnership with various community agencies gives our mentees and mentors access to a variety of free and low-cost opportunities.  One of our newer partnerships is with the North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters

By way of their hands-on-youth focused carpentry event, Kinship kids along with their mentors and guardians were able to participate in fun, creative, and safe woodworking projects. Last year Kinship Kids were invited to build toolboxes, while this year our Kinship Crew built bird houses.        

Sponsor Spotlight

Without our sponsor’s Kinship of Greater Minneapolis would not be able to support the children, families, and relationships in our neighborhoods. Your generosity allows us to continue to provide quality supervision and support to our matches.
— Jerod Petersen

THANK YOU sponsors!
Carlson Family Foundation
Bethany Lutheran Church
Bethlehem Lutheran Church
Calvary Lutheran Church of Golden Valley
Elmer L. and Eleanor J. Andersen Foundation
John and Carrie Hayden Family Foundation
Kinship Fund for Children of The Minneapolis Foundation
Kopp Family Foundation
Lunt Family Fund of The Minneapolis Fund
RBC Foundation-USA
Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation
The Hope Esparolini Fund of the InFaith Community Foundation
The Swenson Family Fund of the InFaith Community Foundation