It's normal for children to feel anxious about change and the unknown. More and more students are getting back to their routines now that several local school districts are back in session.
Whether your child is learning virtually, or in-person, the new school year can bring some unexpected challenges...especially when you factor in the coronavirus.
FOX10 News Anchor Lenise Ligon spoke with Dr. Bridget Hannahan, Clinical Psychologist in Mobile about the toll the pandemic has taken on children, and how parents can help with the transition of online learning, new social distancing and face covering guidelines.
Dr. Hannahan says when it comes to easing any potential anxiety parents will have to set the tone.
LIGON QUESTION: What toll has the coronavirus had on children's mental health?
HANNAHAN ANSWER: "I think a lot of it has to do with the toll that's been taken on the parents because children usually take their cues from the parents in terms of how to react to their circumstances and events and the financial stresses that parents have had. And just the uncertainty that we've had as adults. It's been really hard on the kids too, and being out of their normal routine of school is a big part of that as well."
LIGON QUESTION: How can parents prepare their kids to get back in the classroom without alarming them?
HANNAHAN ANSWER: "Parents need be as informed as possible about what's going to be expected, of the children, so that they can then calmly explain to the children what they're going to need to do, how it might be different than last year and, um, answer, any questions and concerns that the children might have.
LIGON QUESTION: What about talking to children about wearing masks?
HANNAHAN ANSWER: "Well, I think, keeping it simple, it's good to just give them a very basic explanation of how we all have germs and some of them are good and some of them, you know, can hurt us and make us sick. And so we're just keeping, you know, the best way to keep the germs away from each other is to wear the mask. And I think if they make it fun for kids and maybe get him a plain white mask and let them decorate it, however they want to, that they can get them involved in the process so that, you know, it's more something that they're getting used to.
LIGON QUESTION: "What's your advice for moms and dads making the decision between virtual or a traditional school?
HANNAHAN ANSWER: "That's a really tough call. Um, I think it really depends on the family circumstances and you know, what their individual health risks are. Um, if they have older family members living with them, they might choose to go virtual. Um, you know, I think, uh, depends on parents working situations too, whether they're able to stay home with the child or they have childcare arrangements for someone to watch while they're promote learning."
LIGON QUESTION: What about the parents opting for a virtual? How can they make sure that their kids are staying connected with them not physically being in the classroom?
HANNAHAN ANSWER: "If they're doing remote learning, they're gonna be spending a lot of time in front of the screen, but they still can connect in that way. I've noticed that as I've done some training with Zoom over this time period, and you do really get to know the names and faces, and it's kind of an advantage because it has the name right there. I guess they have that on their desks at school too. So they have that advantage, um, either way, but, you know, in terms of low tech, you know, maybe parents can work on, you know, having their children write letters to their class. And that can be a writing exercise for them, as well as a reading exercise, you know, for their peers and keep them connected in that way.
HANNAHAN ANSWER:Kids are really resilient. And I think once they get back into their usual routine, that's really going to kind of put things in perspective and help them to get back to feeling like their day is normal. Um, you know, but I think in terms of looking at kids that do have anxiety, some kids may have anxiety about wearing a mask.
HANNAHAN ANSWER: So what can happen is that as parents, we see our children nervous and so we then get more anxious and, um, our children will pick up on that. And then if we allow them to stay home, then, um, we're sort of telling them that there is something to be afraid of and barring any other health conditions that a child might have, or that a family member might have. And once parents have made that decision to go ahead and send them to school, going ahead and doing that.