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The after effects of the pandemic on students and their mental health
Most families were happy to have their kids back in school full time this year, but many also had anxiety about their kids getting sick. Trying to balance everything mentally has been a struggle for most families. But, most importantly, how about the anxiety of students? Some kids were fully remote last year or hybrid and their lives changed drastically – emotionally and socially. Sure, being nervous the first day of school is normal, but is there anxiety that’s not normal?
It took me a whole week to prepare my daughter mentally to be back in the classroom full time after being at home virtually last year. She had so many questions: “Will my classmates stare at me? I’m scared others will talk to me. How about if I don’t find my class?” In my opinion, that’s normal anxiety. But I knew a student who was throwing up, having stomach aches, and just wanted to be alone. Once school started, she would get prepared for the day, but once she got to the school she didn’t want to be there. She persevered and tried every day to attend school to fight off her anxiety, but she didn’t make it a full day. Her parents would have to pick her up. That’s not normal anxiety or nervousness of first days at school.
We all have gone through different struggles during this pandemic, but most importantly, we have to remember that students may be going through some tough situations mentally. Let’s ask them how they are doing, start with questions such as “has there been a difference with learning virtually vs. being in the classroom?” This might open up a conversation about the tough situations they have been going through and we may learn they need support in getting back on track emotionally.
Earlier on, I spoke about a student who had trouble getting back into school. Her parents were so supportive and tried to understand every aspect of the situation and tried to find answers. This family was ultimately successful in supporting their child in returning to school. The first step her parents took was to talk to their child, with the school administrators, counselors and with outside resources such as psychologists. They took every step necessary because they understood that their child’s behavior was not normal or acceptable for them. I was so happy to find out that once they were in conversations with individuals from the school, they learned there was an appropriate program, as many students have been having a hard time with school emotionally and socially. The program included having the counselor and teachers know the situation and supporting the student virtually until they were feeling well enough to get back into school. With the help of doctors, counselors, teachers and her parents, I’m so happy to say that this student is feeling so much better and is back in school every day! Take the first step and ask the questions.
If your child needs help acclimating back into school full time on campus, reach out to their teachers, counselors and administrators to see if they have a program in place.
Wilda Tutol, M.A. Psychology
Student Success Coach/Executive Functioning Coach
My College Planning Team
Admissions Program Manager, High School-Summer School Program