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What is a ‘Back-to-School Necklace’?

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Adam Wilson
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In the summer, it’s not uncommon to hear about everything related to back-to-school. This time of year is a great time for kids and parents to shop for new school clothes and accessories.

When students talk about back-to-school necklaces, they aren’t discussing new, cute jewelry. On social media or in conversation, you may hear or see it as a troubling phrase (that doesn’t seem alarming at first glance). Necklaces for back-to-school are exactly what they sound like, aren’t they? Here’s how it works.

What is a back to school necklace? What does it mean?

Back-to-school necklaces are described as “another term for a noose. They reflect the despair that comes with starting school again.”

Among its uses are: “I’m about to buy my back-to-school necklace,” “I’m excited to get one,” “I’m planning on buying one,” “I’m planning on calling,” and “I look forward to wearing it,” etc.

The back-to-school necklace may seem innocent enough, but it signals death by hanging. Children should be assisted by their parents once they have been educated about this term.

Is it a good idea to discuss this trending back-to-school necklace phrase with your kids?

If you’re not sure how to proceed, let your child lead the conversation, suggests psychotherapist Samantha Westhouse, LLMSW. As an opening question, she suggests, “Do you know anything about back-to-school necklaces?” Keeping an open line of communication is pivotal. It is important not to judge your child.

By simply checking in, you can have a big impact. It is important for parents to feel empowered to discuss mental health with their children, according to Emily Cavaleri, LLMSW, a school social worker and child and family therapist. During back-to-school conversations, she suggests, “Share personal stories about your dreads when you first started school, especially if you experienced the same feelings as a child.” Let them know you’re there if they need professional assistance or if they need to work through their feelings.”

When the school year starts, why do students feel such dread?

After summer vacation, students may be apprehensive about adjusting to a new routine. Cavaleri explains that returning to school can feel overwhelming for a variety of reasons. They are going from sleeping into an early morning schedule, a relaxed schedule, to a new school, a new teacher, and so on.”

Students often have difficulty overcoming these obstacles. According to the CDC, sadness or hopelessness among high school students has increased by 40 percent since 2009.

This may be a result of socialization over the last two years combined with aging, according to Westhouse. It was only 10 years ago that 13-year-olds were in lockdown. As a result, they did not have the opportunity to participate in regular clubs or sports or socialize with others. Taking into account the mass school shootings in recent years, it all makes a difference.”

What should parents look out for when it comes to warning signs?

This phrase is likely to be used by someone who has mental health issues, Cavaleri says. If your child contemplates suicide or uses this phrase to ask for help, you might notice a variety of symptoms, including spending time alone, acting withdrawn, being irritable, crying frequently, sleeping more than usual, having difficulty sleeping, losing interest in what they used to enjoy, giving away belongings, and generally changing their behavior.” 

According to Cavaleri, your child may use this phrase on their phones even if you haven’t heard them do so. The message may be sent via text or shared via social media platforms, according to her. It is important for parents to be aware of their children’s use of electronic devices, whether they are young children or adolescents. This phrase and these feelings can be expressed by students of any age, so keep an eye out for signs in your child.

Is it important for students to know about the phrase “back-to-school-necklace” when they hear or use it with their friends?

Students are cautioned not to joke about harming themselves or even killing themselves, according to Cavaleri. If people experience feelings like these, they should not be ashamed and should seek help. Regardless of whether their friends tell them not to use this phrase, students should inform an adult if they hear or see their friends using it.”

Your child or teen might dismiss the incident, but Westhouse warns, “it’s serious, even if it appears to be a joke. It’s important for you to discuss this with them and to educate them.”

Can you recommend any resources to help children and teenagers who are feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of going back to school?

Providing support for their children is the parent’s responsibility. Parents can participate in school activities, spend time with their children, and facilitate healthy decision-making by volunteering or communicating with teachers and administrators.

There has been a 44% increase in suicide plans among youth in the past year, according to the CDC. Westhouse would also advocate for schools to have policies in place to help students who are contemplating suicide. 

Cavaleri suggests getting organized early, visiting the school, sleeping well, and eating healthy food to help your child feel less overwhelmed with going back to school.

Conclusion:

When parents know that this is a problem that affects many children and teenagers, they can be more aware of it and seek additional support. Regardless of whether you need therapy or the new 988 suicide helpline, both Westhouse and Cavaleri suggest seeking it.

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