RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- We're days away from the start of the new school semester for thousands of students across Wake County.
Experts shared that parents can help set their children up for a successful start to the new year by helping create a strong mental health foundation. That comes after a challenging year with heightened mental health concerns for young people.
Dr. Anthony Smith, a psychologist and owner of Alase Center for Enrichment said children and their mental health should be a priority for parents in the new year.
Smith said to start with creating a safe space for kids to feel comfortable expressing themselves.
We really, really need to be quite aware of as parents that we are monitoring and looking at what it is that our young people are taking in.Dr. Anthony Smith
"If you're paying attention to what your child is doing, you're asking them questions, and you're keeping those lines open, then you're more likely to keep them in a positive space where they're doing things that are creating a positive mental health," he explained.
The most recent national poll of 12-17-year-olds by the National Alliance on Mental Illness found that 1 in 6 report experiencing specific negative emotions often or all the time.
Smith said social media and technology are contributing factors.
"That is one of the largest things and then that trickled down to some of the peer fighting, some of the social pressure to fit in, which created some instances of students self-harming and even going as far as to commit suicide in some cases. These are things that we definitely don't want to see happen," Smith said.
He said parents can help their children find healthy ways to process stressors by encouraging young people to cut down on screen time and enjoy the in-person moments
"We really, really need to be quite aware of as parents that we are monitoring and looking at what it is that our young people are taking in," Smith said. "We tend to put more emphasis on the technology rather than enjoying the moment that we are engaged in. And it's always important to enjoy our moments."