Mental health issues: preparing for a return to school
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A woman from Sudbury, Ont., Recently told media that her seven-year-old son’s mood darkened when his school closed in March.
âPenn still has good days, but you know he’s a lot more prone to emotional outbursts, he’s a lot more attached to my husband and I, and he’s just not always the same happy, happy little boy that he is. ‘it was when he was able to be in school with his peers,’ said Laurie Lachapelle. “My heart is breaking for him because you know, I can tell he’s really alone.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has taken its toll on student mental health, making it particularly difficult to return to class this fall. Experts say parents can take steps to make sure the process is transparent for their children.
Young people can feel anxious about starting the school year for many reasons. They fear facing the workload and making new friends. Some people worry about their appearance and are embarrassed by their weight, acne, or the changes associated with puberty. Those who have been bullied might fear the same ordeal upon their return.
Returning to class could prove particularly intimidating this fall, as students have been absent from class for many months due to public health restrictions.
âSocial isolation and school closures have really led to a number of children [experiencing] certain feelings and emotions they’re not used to, âDr. Jeff Burzynski, pediatric emergency and intensive care physician at Winnipeg Children’s Hospital, told CBC.
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He said face-to-face interaction and people-to-people connection are important for young students, but they have been deprived of it during the pandemic.
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Many of them are particularly anxious this year because their families have experienced economic hardship, illness or death from the pandemic. Additionally, after being isolated with their families for over a year, young children may experience separation anxiety when they return to school.
Experts urge parents to look for signs of mental distress in their children, including changes in eating or sleeping habits, extreme restlessness and complaints of stomach pain. Anxious children may become clingier or cry for no apparent reason.
Parents can help relieve this anxiety. They could involve their children in preparations for the school year such as buying new clothes and supplies and planning lunches. Familiarizing them with the journey to school and talking to them about what to expect in class could be helpful.
In some cases, expressing their feelings is all that children need to feel better. It also helps parents send positive messages about the upcoming school year.
In a recently released paper, experts from the University of Calgary said parents could help their children feel optimistic about the school year by taking the steps outlined above. âUltimately,â the experts wrote, âour children need us to pave the way for a successful back-to-school transition and to develop the lifelong skills they need to meet the challenges. . “
The information provided does not replace professional advice. If you need advice, please consult a qualified healthcare practitioner. For more information or if you would like to access our services at CMHA, please call 1-800-493-8271 or visit our website at www.cmha-east.on.ca.