Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Soul Sustenance: Managing School-Year Stress

Going back to school can be full of excitement and expectations. Unfortunately, during these times, it can also trigger feelings of anxiety and stress. MindPath Care Centers, provider of outpatient mental and behavioral health services, share ideas for coping with some of the challenges of going back to school, choosing virtual learning or even homeschooling.

Here's a link to a recent discussion that offers parents and caregivers helpful tips on how to cope, help their children learn and deal with their new environments, the importance of socialization and being attentive to mental health levels/signs to watch out for.

I had a chance to do an interview to learn more.

Debbie Edgefield, LCSW at MindPath Care Centers
How can parents prep their kids for ways the school year might be different, whether they are doing in-person, hybrid, or distance learning?
This upcoming school year is extremely different from previous school years whether your child is doing in-person, hybrid, or distance learning. Due to COVID-19, there will be a lot of changes that students will have to adjust to. Change can be very difficult for children so it is important to prep kids the best that you can. Some ways of doing that is by letting them know what the differences with school will be. Letting them know how the distance learning will be set up and what their online class schedule will be. For in-person, it is important to let them know what safety precautions the schools are taking and what new procedures need to be followed while at school. Additionally, if they are doing a hybrid letting them know what that schedule looks like. Lastly, making sure they know that some things are subject to change as time goes on. This will help students transition into these new changes more smoothly. It will also be important to have kids do a practice run before starting distance learning so that they can become familiar with the technology. This will help decrease frustrations that may come when they try to set it up the day of class. Kids may develop frustration and anxiety with all these new changes so it may be helpful to also prep them on how to cope with those feelings. Discussing different coping skills such as taking breaks, getting exercise, and doing deep breathing with your child can help them manage those emotions.

How can parents help their kids stay socially connected if they have opted for distance learning?
If you have opted for distance learning it will be important to make sure your kids are able to stay socially connected. Socialization is an important component of a child’s life. Most kids get that from spending time with friends at school. To help combat this you will have to be very intentional about finding ways for your child to stay connected. This is not unlike what parents of children who are homeschooled do. If your child has friends at school, it could be helpful to encourage time where they can talk to their friends over video chat or phone. You can set up virtual play dates with their friends. Some parents have been facilitating social distance meetings with the children’s friends when appropriate. For example, you can drive your child by a friend’s house to wave to or stand outside to talk. Older kids have been wearing masks and taking a walk with their friends while keeping 6 feet apart. It would also be beneficial to keep in touch with other parents so that you can learn what others are doing to keep their kids socially connected.

What are some warning signs for parents to watch out for that may indicate they need professional help with their kids?
As previously stated, during this time children may experience stress, anxiety, low mood, and frustration. It is very normal but should be monitored. It will be important for parents to monitor for warning signs that their children are experience strong emotions that warrant professional intervention. Warning signs may include; isolating more than usual, becoming irritable, lack of energy, lack of motivation, sleeping too much, unable to sleep, anxious thoughts/over worrying, low mood, flat affect, lack of enjoyment in things they otherwise would enjoy, panic attacks, tantrums, and other out of character behaviors. If you notice any of these symptoms and they have been occurring numerous days, then it could be beneficial to have your child talk to a professional. A professional can assist your child with processing their emotions and learning ways to cope with them.

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