Here we are in the fall of 2020, many months after the beginning of the unexpected turn of events caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. If you’re like most people, you were probably hoping that life would begin to return to normal sometime over the course of the summer and that our kids would be returning to in-person learning in the classroom this fall.
But, like so many other situations that have changed, the plan for the start of school has changed too! More and more schools are deciding to begin school off-campus in a virtual remote learning environment. This means that our kids, who never returned to school after spring break and experienced a great deal of uncertainty and change along with the rest of us, will continue to stay home while engaging with their classmates and doing their school work from home.
This is a stressful time for many people, full of unknowns and changing plans for kids as well as adults. It’s a real challenge to consider the benefits and potential risks of sending your child back to school in the traditional way. Many parents are feeling stressed with having to make a decision between virtual and in-person learning while having to juggle their work schedules and responsibilities.
As the school year begins and kids are getting ready for an experience unlike any other, they might be experiencing anxiety about what to expect, whether they will see their friends, whether sports will continue or be canceled, or whether they will be able to return to their normal school day anytime soon.
While the answers to these questions are unknown to all of us, there is a lot that parents can do to support their child during the transition to starting school back up. Their social and emotional well-being is by far the most vulnerable at this time.
Why is social and emotional well being so important? Developmentally, kids are learning social skills, relationship skills, self-management, and decision making among other social and emotional skills. These skills are learned through interactions with their peers and adults, and building connections with others around them, learning to navigate social situations. All of that is interrupted when they are home and adapting to school online without much interaction with peers.
Thanks to technology, there are so many opportunities to be present with others over video and actively participate in learning. Yet, a lot of kids will experience sadness and stress over adapting to the way their school experience has changed.
The most important thing parents can do to support their children is to be aware of their feelings and validate them. Listen when they want to share what’s on their mind. Kids do not have the self-awareness yet, developmentally, to know exactly what they are feeling. They may show sadness and stress in other ways.
Here are some signs to look for that indicate they may be having trouble managing their emotions.
Many times when children experience big emotions, they will express anger at the surface. They may have outbursts of anger or frustration that are displaced – during times that have nothing to do with school.
For example, picking a fight with a sibling, throwing the remote across the room when it’s not working for them, becoming overly frustrated because they don’t like what’s for dinner. Displaced anger and frustration may be a sign that they are anxious or sad about something else.
Resistance and Defiance
Kids (and adults, too) do not like feeling out of control. When their environment is stressful and beyond what they can control (such as everything that changes due to COVID-19), they may grasp onto something else they can control. This often looks like refusing to do their school work or some other responsibility. While it looks like Defiance on the outside, underneath could very likely be stress and sadness.
Saying They Are Tired
When kids say they are tired it may be code for they are bored, stressed, or sad. They don’t feel like doing anything and may express they are tired.
Many kids have spent significantly more time in front of screens since the COVID-19 pandemic began earlier this year. It’s important to notice whether your child is using video games or YouTube as a way to “numb out” and avoid dealing with their stress or sadness.
There is very little that is more frustrating to a parent than their child insisting they bored! But in kid speak “I’m bored” is often code for “I’m sad.”
The school year is going to be a challenge for kids, parents, teachers…almost everyone. Communicating with your kids and checking in with them, as well as noticing changes in their behavior will open a door to their true feelings underneath the behavior. Parents can help best by being ready to listen, validate their child’s feelings, show them empathy, and support them in working through what they are feeling.
Sometimes the changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic are too much and too overwhelming. If your child is experiencing extreme symptoms of stress or anxiety such as excessive crying, headaches or stomachaches that can’t be explained in other ways, or other symptoms that are disruptive to their daily functioning, seek the help of a therapist who can help!
Our therapists are highly skilled in working with children, adolescents, and families. We offer a diverse array of services to meet the needs of you and your family!
Let’s connect! Call us today to schedule an appointment.
940-222-8552 or email [email protected]
Teen Social Anxiety