Back to School & COVID-19: Supporting Your Child’s Mental Health
The start of a new academic year can be a stressful time for students as they adjust to their new routines. With the effects of COVID-19 still impacting daily life, and most especially schools, students may experience heightened levels of stress, anxiety, and other feelings as they begin the academic year with a shifting landscape. Some school districts in Florida and across the country have instituted various policies and procedures to ensure the safety of their students, staff, and teachers. These policies may include online class options, mask mandates, or other safety guidelines. The physical well-being of students taking classes is of the utmost importance. We also want to encourage parents to be aware of the mental well-being of their children as they start the school year.
Parents and guardians should stay up-to-date with the latest updates from their school district officials. At this time, Miami-Dade County Public Schools as well as Broward County Schools officials are requiring masks for all students, staff, and faculty. Policies and guidelines may shift quickly as school officials respond to the rapidly changing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic. We encourage parents and families to talk to their children about the increasing need for safety and vigilance during this time.
On the mental health side, having time to connect with their peers is critical for the mental wellbeing of children and it is vital that they do so in a safe manner. Help your child feel more at ease with going back to the classroom by talking to them about the safety protocols currently in place. Students will seek to engage physically with their schoolmates during class and scheduled playtimes. Children may not inherently understand why they should be mindful of social distancing policies. It is important for parents to remind their students to listen to their school teachers and other officials on proper safety protocols to do their part to keep others safe.
At home, parents and guardians should keep a careful watch over their children’s behavior. Take note of any potential signs of mental distress, which can include persistent sadness and withdrawal from social interactions. Find ways to engage your child about their day and what they learned in school. This can help to promote a positive environment where students can focus on the positive aspects of their school day rather than potentially focusing on just the challenges they are facing. Doing so can also help create a space where students can share their challenges and receive emotional support from their parents and guardians. Open communication and active listening between children and their families are critical to navigating these ever-changing times.
If there are persistent signs of mental distress, parents and guardians should consider reaching out to school counselors, if available, or other professional mental health experts. Overall, we encourage parents to stay connected with their student’s schools to be aware of changes or challenges happening. Find out what communication channels your school is using to provide updates and be sure to read any information they send out.
As you navigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, consider how you discuss what is happening around your child. Students will take many of their social and emotional cues from their parents and families. Role modeling safe practices and healthy discussions about COVID-19 and mental health will help students feel more at ease about their school experience and help them navigate these challenges in a more positive way.
Resources to Learn More
If you or someone you know has a mental illness, is struggling emotionally, or has concerns about their mental health, there are ways to get help. Use these resources to find help for you, a friend, or a family member.