Giving our children the tools they need to thrive

August 9, 2023

The long, lazy days of summer will soon be coming to an end, which means the much-anticipated (and sometimes dreaded!) back-to-school season is right around the corner. In a few short weeks, younger students will be boarding their school buses for the first day of class, while older kids will be moving into their college dorms. Although heading back to school is exciting, it also can be stressful. Factors such as changing schedules, more difficult classes, pressure to achieve, and new social situations can impact a student’s mental health.

Anxiety, depression, and substance use among teens, which had already been on the rise before the pandemic, have now reached a crisis point in many families. Recent studies indicate that:

  • Approximately one in five teens aged twelve to eighteen suffer from at least one diagnosable mental health disorder.
  • 70% of public schools have seen a rise in students seeking mental health support
  • 44% of high school students have reported feeling excessively sad or hopeless.

But it’s not all bad news. Research shows that kids who receive emotional support from caring adults are more likely to succeed in new situations and develop stronger coping skills. JFCS strives to partner with our community’s parents and educators to create a well-rounded culture of caring for South Jersey’s students during “back to school” time and throughout the year. Our team of mental health experts are here to help families weather life’s challenges through counseling for individuals, couples, and families. In a new and exciting development, we now offer medication management services through our psychiatric nurse practitioner—either as a standalone service or in conjunction with counseling.

In addition to counseling services, our JFCS support groups help folks of all ages build skills and make new social connections. Just in time for the new school year, we will be offering a new skills-building workshop series: Stress Less for High School Students, which will provide therapeutic support for teens who are struggling to cope and manage their anxiety. Led by one of our staff clinicians, participants will learn new coping skills, boost their self-confidence, and create social connections with other teens. Stress Less will meet for six weekly sessions, starting on Wednesday evening, August 16. To learn more or to register your child, please contact Jenna Welch, LSW, MSW, at (856) 424-1333 or

As a complement to counseling and support groups, our JFCS youth outreach programs aim to help tweens and teens build resiliency, enabling them to navigate the roller coaster ride of adolescence more smoothly. The goal of Building Healthy Relationships and Packing for College is to stop relationship and dating abuse before they ever start. Students learn how to distinguish between healthy and unhealthy dating relationships, the meaning and importance of consent, and ways to help friends or roommates who may be experiencing intimate partner abuse.

One Step at a Time, our addiction awareness and prevention program, strives to destigmatize conversations about addiction and overdose. This powerful presentation educates tweens, teens, and their loved ones about the dangers of opiates, fentanyl, and other substances in an ongoing effort to prevent addiction-related tragedies among our community’s youth.

JFCS also offers school-based programs addressing suicide awareness and prevention, as well as stress management techniques for both students and teachers. All of our youth outreach programs are available free of charge, thanks to generous funding from the Camden County Board of Commissioners and Gregg B. Wolfe, in loving memory of his son, Justin Wolfe. If you are an educator or a congregational leader, I truly hope you will avail your students of one of these incredible programs. To learn more, please reach out to Meredith Siegel Cohen at (856) 424-1333 or

At one time or another, each one of us has felt a little lost on our parenting journey. We all want the best for our kids, and we all want to be the best version of ourselves for their sake. It can be hard to watch our kids struggle and not know how to help. The bottom line? Being a parent—or a kid—today is hard.

At JFCS, we know that asking for help or seeking guidance is a sign of strength and courage. After all, it was Booker T. Washington who said, “None of is as smart as all of us.” With the right support, we can support our children with confidence, love, and hope. We can create a deep connection with our kids as we help them grow and thrive through these formative years. And together, we can build a better future for everyone.