For parents preparing to start this school year with their children at home, there are concerns about children adapting mentally and emotionally to another semester away from their schoolmates and teachers.
“I am a parent myself, so I can relate to the anxiety,” said Janine Domingues, a clinical psychologist with the Child Mind Institute.
Domingues says parents have very good reason to be concerned.
“For children or adolescents who were already prone to anxiety or social anxiety or depression, certainly this time, as you are more isolated and can’t interact with others, it can heighten anxiety and depression symptoms,” said Domingues.
There are warning signs parents can look for to recognize if the isolation and social distancing are getting to their child.
“Further isolation in their room, not getting out of bed, not engaging in activity that they normally would’ve engaged in,” said Domingues. “And honestly, if they are expressing sadness every day and in intense levels of that.”
If a parent sees some of those warning signs, they are strongly encouraged to take action.
“The number one step is reaching out for mental health services,” said Domingues. “Whether it is reaching out to a previous psychologist or therapist that you worked with or a new psychologist.”
Organizations like the Child Mind Institute provide telehealth services for children struggling mentally and emotionally right now, and they even provide financial assistance for families concerned about affording the sessions.
However, before it gets to the point where a child may need help, Domingues said there are steps parents can take to help their child adjust better to this start of the school year at home.
“Really talking about it, honestly,” said Domingues. “Helping them understand that there might be another time where we are doing this at home.”
She said parents should ask their children about their concerns, ask what worked well at the end of last semester and what did not, and ask the child about what they think they will feel at the start of this semester.
“It can feel very overwhelming and anxiety-provoking, but again, it’s just taking one step at a time and talking through it,” said Domingues.
Domingues, and most psychologists, believe kids are resilient and with the proper guidance, they can adapt to whatever schooling situation they’ll be in this fall.