Back to School Blues in the Time of COVID 19

What a roller coaster ride, and not the fun kind, more of the there’s been a ride malfunction and the riders are getting worried and nauseous kind of ride. First, parents/guardians and students faced the uncertainties of what the 2020-2021 school year would look like. Now, we know what that looks like, at least for the moment, and for most students in North Carolina, it is a very different learning environment from what they’ve known before. Some students have 100% remote learning, others have a hybrid of in-school and remote learning, and even students who are in-school full-time are dealing with social distancing and safety protocols.

Whatever a student’s learning environment is right now, most students are faced with a flood of varying emotions. The following are some pointers for parents/guardians of those students, in seeking to help them manage that flood of varying emotions and successfully navigate this school year.

Resilient parents create resilient kids – Kyle Boerke, LCP (This can be a tough one with most parents struggling with their own flood of varying emotions, so I would add, “Resilient appearing parents, create resilient kids.” Some of us just have to fake it ‘til we make it.

    1. With our kids looking to us to help them through this new and challenging time, taking care of ourselves and our mental health needs to be a priority. Put your own oxygen mask on first, then assist your child.
    2. Students take cues from parents/guardians as to how to navigate the road ahead, lead by example.
    3. Be patient with your student and pick your battles.
    4. Reach out for academic support if needed by your student, remote learning and even a hybrid process can negatively affect academics (changes to learning environments affect most students and some more than others).

“Empathy is about connection; sympathy is about separation.” – Brene Brown

  1. Reassure students even older ones that it is normal and perfectly understandable if they feel overwhelmed.
  2. Talk to your student about their “new normal” and reassure them that it is perfectly understandable if they feel sad or frustrated over their new normal which most likely includes losses (events, gatherings, etc).
  3. Keep a close eye on your student from a mental health perspective and if they’re showing signs of decline, get them extra support, even telehealth visits are better than nothing.

“By consciously practicing gratitude, we can train the brain to attend selectively to positive emotions and thoughts, thus reducing anxiety and feelings of apprehension.” – Madhuleena Chowdhury

  1. As challenging as it may seem, sit down with your student periodically and, along with them, write down five things for which you are grateful.
  2. When our or our children’s anxiety is ramped up, we get locked into our fight or flight response/survival mode. Staying in that state is problematic and when we make decisions in that state, we are not engaging the part of the brain that emphasizes logic over emotion. There are various ways to settle the survival response and tap back into the logic portion of our brains. A collaborative study involving Princeton, Harvard, and Carnegie Mellon Universities revealed that focusing on long term goals and priorities triggered the portion of our brain associated with logic more so than the region involved with emotions. Psychological / Psychiatric studies have also revealed that listening to bilateral sounds reduces anxiety and helps restore brain balance. Bilateral sound clips can be found on YouTube and in certain Android and IOS applications.

Encourage safe gatherings and connections in this time of separation. Virtual gatherings and phone calls with friends combat feelings of isolation.

These are just a few suggestions to help students manage these unprecedented times and academic environments. The content of this blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute the providing of medical advice nor is it intended as a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified medical professional with any physical or mental health questions or concerns you may have.