Adjusting to School During a Pandemic
As a mom sending a little one to kindergarten, and a therapist, I wanted to share my thoughts about mental health and going back to school in a pandemic. Like most parents, I do not particularly like any of the options. I am not cut out for home school, distance learning sounds hard, and I do not care to bring germs home from school in person. I worry most though about how my daughter will adjust and be able to relax and learn considering all the obstacles ahead of this school year.
As parents, we tend to talk with our support people about how we feel about just about everything. This is a great coping skill, but also one to be cautious about when the kids are around. They pick up on EVERYTHING! When we talk about our worries and fears about the school year, they become worried. We recently had a virus scare in our home (luckily turned out to be negative) and my daughter was really affected. When she got to be around friends again, she kept asking me if she could touch other kids or hug her grandparents again. She was anxious about the rules, afraid she might make someone else sick. Kids soak up our troubles, our fears, and our feelings about all of this. Please think about how you want them to feel about it all and model those feelings yourself.
School, no matter what option you choose, will be different this year. Carelessly playing with friends will not be happening. There will be so many new rules, bound to cause kids a little anxiety. Sports will be different, if they happen at all. Socialization will be different. Group activities will be different. Some kids are resilient to change, while change triggers anxiety and/or depression in other kids. Please watch your kids as they adapt to this school year, watching for signs of struggles to adjust.
As mentioned, a lot of kids will adjust well while others will have a hard time adjusting. This is a very unusual situation, so any reaction your kids have is okay. I wanted to list symptoms to watch out for that may indicate your child is having a hard time with the adjustment:
- Crying spells
- Trouble falling asleep
- Stomachaches and headaches
- Loss of interest in activities
- Excessive sleepiness
- Change in eating habits
- Defiance or changes in behaviors
- Increased sadness
- Difficulty with drop-offs
Adjustment disorder is a clinical diagnosis that relates to how a person adjusts to a new situation. Adjustment disorder is not a long-term label that stays with a person. It is a set of symptoms in response to a situation. A lot of times a person will have symptoms of depression, anxiety, or both. With all the craziness that surrounds Covid-19, adjustment disorder is going to be common with children, parents, and really anyone affected by the virus. Adjustment disorder is very treatable, usually with counseling. Sometimes medication can be helpful to dig a person out of a negative mindset, but counseling is so important to teach a person how to adjust to the changes.
If you are concerned about how your child is adjusting this school year, help is readily available. Please know you are not alone in helping your kids adjust to this crazy, difficult, unprecedented time.
Bethany Borrenpohl, MSW, LCSW
Therapist/Practice Owner/Mom of 3