According to the CDC, between March and May of 2020 there was a 24% increase in mental health related ER visits by kids ages 5 to 11.
For kids 12-17 years of age, that increase jumped to 31%. In a rush to go back to normal life after the pandemic, have we overlooked the mental health of our children?
There are many sources of anxiety for kids going back to school. For young children, separation anxiety is a prevalent problem.
For older kids, social anxiety is heightened with the thoughts of seeing their peers on a daily basis again after spending the previous year in quarantine.
An article from ADDitude magazine emphasizes how stress impacts students,stating, “once we experience stress for along time, our brains are negatively impacted.” (Levy, 2021).
This rings true especially for children with ADHD and executive function challenges.
One executive function that kids need established more than ever is flexibility.
Cognitive flexibility allows us to adapt to our environment.This is useful for students living in a world where things can change at any time.
One minute they can be getting ready to go into the next school year amongst a sea of peers, the next minute they are wearing masks and staying six feet apart from everyone they encounter, and attending school at home.
So, how can we teach our kids to be flexible in times like these? – And how can we support their mental health in the process?
1. Validate the students’ feelings.
Right now it is more important than ever for kids to feel heard, seen, and understood – especially if they don’t understand everything that they feel yet, either.
2. Encourage routine.
The best thing we can do when the world has turned upside down as we know it is to try to find normalcy in small ways.
Remember to prepare for changes, and encourage students to prepare for changes as well. By thinking ahead for possible stressors and planning for them, we exercise flexibility.
3. Adjust their expectations for their students.
This may mean reassessing both personal and academic goals, requesting or alloting extra time on assignments, and catching up on missed work.
As kids navigate “new normals” and transition through touch times, having support and understanding goes a long way.