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Crisis therapist Q&A on managing mental stress when returning to school

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Posted at 10:45 AM, Jul 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-23 11:45:29-04

While children, parents and teachers adjust to new responsibilities ahead of the school year, stress is building for many. There are ways to help notice those signs and manage. We compiled a list of questions we've been seeing on Facebook and reached out to child therapist Reginald Lemelle for his advice.

With the last school year cut short and anticipation building for the new year this will be a big transition for students. Parents/guardians, be aware that your stress can affect how your kids respond. Address their questions, but don't give a final answer unless the school system made a decision and specifically answered that topic. You can read what has been decided so far by clicking here.

Don't talk about wearing a mask for 8 hours a day. If you have little ones, allow them to wear a mask in small increments, 5-10 minutes. Slowly increase their time wearing a mask as days go by. If they start panicking, have them take it off and try again the next day. Explain that you're practicing for the school year. If you can, buy them a fun mask. Kids are always listening so if you're disgruntled about having to wear a mask, your kids will most likely be upset as well and take those feelings to school.

Remind kids that their teachers and friends will be wearing masks and keeping their distance like you may see at grocery stores. Practice a classroom setup at home and try to make it fun.

Tell them you don't know. Then meet with your spouse/partner and decide how you will answer your kids to be on the same page so there's no added confusion. Kids are smart and they absorb information from home so don't give them unnecessary information. Ask if they have questions about going back to school or questions about the pandemic. Using COVID-19 instead of the coronavirus might be more calming because coronavirus has been used so frequently. Lastly, speak to them according to their age level.

Parents are the experts. You can tell when your child is not operating like usual. If you see those differences, ask them about it. Try to maintain a lower tone of voice. Kids tend to mimic the elevation in your voice or they may shut down when voices get tense.

Allow them to connect with their friends through the internet, however limit screen time. Keep them physically active with a healthy amount of time outside. You can also encourage them to do homework with their friends, but you may have to monitor to keep them on task.

Take a break. Take turns with your partner or other children in the house to help your kids with their school work. Sometimes it's more difficult to teach your kids than someone elses. If you feel it's safe, ask an older student in your neighborhood to come sit with your child and help them with their school work.

If you find yourself short on patience or acting roughly towards the kids, it might be time for both you and your children to have a break.

This is a whole new landscape. Be patient with yourself and your children and seek help from your school board if you feel they need more assistance. While some kids may thrive in this environment, every household is unique. Do not give up, be hopeful and ask for help.

Ask your administration about their plan to keep you safe this school year. if you feel stressed, reach out. You are not alone. Teachers can benefit from connecting with each other, sharing their concerns and showing support to coworkers.

If you feel like you're struggling and you don't feel like yourself, it may be time to reach out to your local mental health services.

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