No matter your position on the “right way” to do back-to-school during the pandemic, you and your family are likely feeling a lot more stress than when you prepped for last year’s school start.
Both kids and caregivers are weary after anticipating the news from the state, then waiting for what that means to them, and now knowing what the first weeks might look like. Yet, expecting that all will change or might change as the pandemic’s impact continues to roll over our community.
Washburn Center’s Clinical Director Jennifer Britton shares that the “anticipatory worry” can be as harmful to our mental health as the stress of changing up the familiar. And, when you mix it all together like what we’ve been experiencing it can feel like you’re tumbling around in a dryer.
“Our kids thrive when routine and their safe places and people catch them when times get hard,” says Britton. With the unknowns and shift in how school will work this year that familiar ground feels even shakier and often “comes out sideways” when you’re weary from the social isolation and restrictions that we’ve been experiencing since springtime.
As the foundation of school shakes this fall, we know that children are further feeling the negative effects of missing out — on friends, teachers, sports, learning, and social skills.
“We are on the brink of a significant increase in mental health needs as we head back into the school year,” Britton cautions. “Our kids and our mental health system were fragile and under resourced before the pandemic hit and changed our landscape. We need to stay close to our kids and watch for the signs and signals that they need help – then step up with the right support quickly.”
Add to the mix, that restrictions on mask wearing and social distancing are counter to how kids like to interact – with each other and the world around them.
Wearing a mask for hours at a time, shared spaces that are socially distanced, and other COVid-caused changes can make even the most comfortable, school-loving students feel uneasy. And for the kids who already weren’t thrilled with the school day before the pandemic, it holds even more stress now.
We know that families and kids are feeling the traumatic effects of the pandemic, loss of relationship and supports,” Britton affirms. “This fall looks and feels different for everyone and we want to be a support for families and figure out what works for each individual.”
In the same way that tornado drills can be frightening, even the way that we describe the need for these safety measures to children is important, as hearing about the spread and dangers of COVid-19 in school can cause stress and anxiety. When parents approach the issue clearly and frankly, it helps and we’ve learned can be handled delicately when kids are filled with fear and anxiety.
As you approach your children with the uncomfortable “why’s” and “how’s” of the current environment, it may be helpful to download this free ebook and read with them.
How do I know if my child needs help?
Your child may not know how to approach you if they are struggling with mental health, and you may not know the warning signs and what to look for. Here are a few things to consider:
- Is my child sleeping too much or not enough?
- Are their eating habits close to what they usually are?
- Are they up-to-date on schoolwork?
- Are they enjoying activities that are available right now?
Our therapists help children, youth and teens struggling with social, emotional or behavioral challenges such as: attention deficit disorder, anxiety, depression, trauma and loss or grief.
Call 612.871.1454 for support today; many programs have immediate availability.