Returning to School in the Age of COVID-19

September 14th, 2020

The new school year is well under way and what a difference six months has made! For many parents and guardians, choosing the best back-to-school option has been difficult. There were pros and cons to each choice, and many are still struggling with having confidence in their decision. Please know that the best option for your family was the right one! Everyone’s needs and situations are different and what works for one family may not work for another. Be assured that young people are incredibly resilient and adaptable and for most of our students, they will adjust to safety regulations and get right back in the swing of things!

There are some considerations to be mindful of as the school year progresses and, as adults, we need to ensure we are managing our own anxieties to provide positive encouragement and support for our young people to manage theirs. There will be some students that have a more difficult time adjusting to the changes. It is important that signs and symptoms of their challenges be identified as early as possible. Brief therapeutic services should be a consideration to help establish healthy coping skills and assistance in guiding them through their emotions. Adjustment disorders are common mental health diagnoses among youth and are best overcome with professional techniques. Parents and teachers should be observing for warning signs and having regular “check-ins” to address concerns. (Click here to review 10 warning signs.)

There may be circumstances where the student is not happy with the decision their parent/guardian has made. They may want the option to attend school virtually, but their parents may work, requiring them to go to school in person. This can cause some anxiety related to fear of getting sick or worrying that they will bring the virus home to family members. In these cases, having conversations that explain the risks and benefits of returning to school, reviewing the safety measures implemented by the school district, and conveying confidence in their return, can help ease their anxieties.

On the other end, the student may want to return to school in person, but due to additional factors they need to remain home. Again, having the conversation of the risks and benefits will be helpful, and instilling hope is another strong suggestion. Reassure the student that their return will continue to be evaluated for safety and, once it is safe to do so, they will go back. Socialization is incredibly important for child and adolescent development and they should be encouraged to connect with friends and family via video chat or other agreed-upon means. In any case, emphasize that this virus is temporary. We will get through this!

This year’s return to school has been unlike any other. As with anything new, there will be a learning curve and adjustment period for the student, the parent, and the teacher. Be understanding, patient, compassionate, and kind. Give the school system time to make changes as the weeks go on and be vigilant in watching for warning signs. Address concerns immediately and be engaged in their schooling, whether it be in-person or virtual. Identify areas of concern and collaborate as a partner with the school district. As always, DLC is here to help if you need it. With a variety of programs for children and adolescents, we can assess your family’s needs and support you in the best way possible.

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