Speaking Mental Health
Forward Times Mental Health Advisors
Children returning to school after the onset of the pandemic has been a sensitive topic for most parents. Although many children experienced feelings of loss and depression due to being isolated from their friends and peers, returning to school amid the increasing numbers of the coronavirus has posed more anxiety for children and parents as well. Returning to school is a two-fold situation as it provides the connection and interaction that many children need to build social skills and improve their learning potential; however, the threat of contracting the virus remains a concern.
There are strategies for helping to support your child in returning to school in hopes to help them to feel more safe and secure. Since children look to their parents for consolation, parents should be open with their children regarding returning to school. Be aware of behavioral changes and ask children questions about their thoughts and feelings. With simple and honest answers, parents can help children understand the necessity of returning to school and reinforce safety protocols. Acknowledge the children’s feelings and allow them to express themselves without downplaying or dismissing them. Children’s feelings are valid and they should be allowed to openly express themselves. When these thoughts and feelings are being discussed, parents could reassure their children by modeling how to handle difficult situations, stress, and anxiety. Practicing healthy coping skills will go a long way in teaching children how to regulate their own emotions. Also, being hopeful and expressing positive feelings will help children to overcome the stress and anxiety of what they are facing by returning to school. Reducing their exposure to the media and the devastating statistics will possibly shield them from what is happening beyond their control.
Carve out time to spend with children to help ease their anxiety. Developing healthy routines also gives the children a sense of expectation and control. When the world seems to be so unpredictable, having routines and spending quality time with them may give them a sense of control and security.
Quality sleep is an underestimated component to overall happiness. Make sure your child has a set schedule including mealtime, homework, play, talk time with parents, and SLEEP. Quality sleep helps to reduce anxiety, lower stress levels, enable the body to recharge itself, improve the immune system, and helps to improve performance in school. All of these things, along with positive reassurance, may help your child to adjust to returning to school.
Dr. Angela M. Powell is a Licensed Professional Counselor and owner of Progressive Counseling & Consulting, LLC., specializing in youth trauma, anxiety, and depression.