How to deal with children's anxiety surrounding school reopening

Home schooling
Posted at 9:22 AM, Jul 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-28 10:34:00-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — For five-year-old Bailey Bennett and her seven-year-old brother Jayden, they're learning at a young age how COVID-19 is affecting their normalcy.

"You can't do nothing, but stay in your room," Bailey said. "So you don't get anyone sick."

And with several new changes for the kids, they bring all the questions to mom and dad, Gabrielle and Michael Bennett.

"They've asked when is it going to be over, why do we have to stay home, why can't we go to the park, why can't we go to the swimming pool," Bennett said. "They ask when can we see grandma."

For other children, it's not only questions but a lot of emotion and feelings, especially surrounding their school's reopening plans.

Leann Keck is a manager for the Saint Luke's Crittenton Children's Center's TraumaSmart and says anxiety has been a growing issue in children.

"Last few years, we've seen a huge growth in anxiety symptoms," Keck said. "But with coronavirus and impacting their education on the day-to-day, it's definitely grown day today."

She said disruptions to their routine can be hard.

"Everything is uncertain right now," Keck said. "So that's very difficult for them."

Keck says one of the first recommendations for parents of young children is to do a check of your own feelings.

"Be able to recognize that and take care of yourself," Keck said. "So that when you are able to start talking with your child, which you need to be able to, then at that point, you're not going to push your anxiety or concerns over onto them."

She said to allow a safe space for your children to say you value their opinion about their feelings regarding the pandemic.

For older elementary children, Keck said look for two different categories. The first is somatic complaints.

"If they're complaining of headaches often, or they're very tired, or they have a lot more energy and they're kind of running around, they're sleeping more, that schedule's changed, or they wake up a lot during the night, their appetite has changed, those are all things to be thinking about," Keck said. Especially surrounding conversations about school."

Also, look out for physical signs.

"If your child is really shutting down, isolating, and maybe they're very agitated right now, again, especially regarding school," Keck said. "So just be aware there's going to be some normal things that happen with kids and that those feelings are okay."

She said while those signs are not major emergencies, it's important to keep an eye on them, especially around the school year.

"Because you are the expert in your child," Keck said.

If you're really concerned about your child, it's encouraged to seek a child therapist to work on resilience skills. It's also encouraged to reach out to the district to see if any counselors or social workers would be available to do zoom check-ins with your child.

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