Back-to-School Mental Health Overview for Parents
School may feel like a new experience for students of all ages when they return to in-person learning this fall after twelve months of mostly remote learning in 2020 and spring of 2021. That can lead to heightened anxiety, according to Jonathan Ponser, LCPC, manager of child and family therapy with Memorial Behavioral Health (MBH).
“If your child is asking questions about what to expect in an all-day, in-person learning environment, they may be seeking emotional support and encouragement,” he said. “Something simple like scheduling an outing to purchase back-to-school supplies and clothes may help spark feelings of familiarity which can then provide a sense of reassurance.”
Ponser also recommends the following tips to prepare for the upcoming school routine:
- Prepare your child now for an earlier morning wake-up and bedtime if they have enjoyed a relaxed summer sleeping schedule.
- Dial back electronics especially before bedtime.
- Talk through what your student’s school day will look like. Take advantage if your local school allows students time to walk schedules or visit lockers and practice combinations.
Some students may suffer from the effects of prolonged isolation or trauma associated with losing loved ones to COVID-19, missing out on milestone moments, losing a sense of identity due to canceled athletic or performance-based activities, and even the stress of parents losing jobs and health insurance.
“Don’t hesitate to seek help now for your students if they exhibit signs of severe anxiety or depression,” said Ponser. “We have seen an increase in the number of children (and adults) who are struggling to cope with everything that has been thrown at them the past year and a half. There is no shame in talking with a professional counselor and working through some of those emotions.”
Memorial Behavioral Health provides telehealth and phone appointments with their patients. In addition, MBH offers an emotional support hotline, available at 217-588-5509, to provide support to individuals who are experiencing anxiety or stress, even if they are not MBH patients.