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Return to In-Person Learning: Mental Health and Social-Emotional Well-Being Considerations

As children return to in-person learning, the school experience will be very different from before with desks far apart from each other, teachers maintaining physical distance, and the possibility of staying in the classroom for lunch, it is unlike anything your child is used to. Before school is in session, you may want to talk to your child and explain that all these steps are being taken to keep everyone safe and healthy.

The list below from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides actions and considerations regarding your child’s mental health and emotional well-being as they transition back to in-person school. CDC’s Stress and Coping During the COVID-19 Pandemic provides additional resources for you and your family. In addition, if your child seems to need mental health or behavioral services (e.g., social skills training, counseling), you may want to ask your school administrator for more information on these services.

Actions to take and points to consider

  • Talk with your child about how school will look different (e.g., desks far apart from each other, teachers maintaining physical distance, possibility of staying in the classroom for lunch).
  • Talk with your child about how school is going and about interactions with classmates and teachers. Find out how your child is feeling and communicate that what they may be feeling is normal.
  • Anticipate behavior changes in your child. Watch for changes like excessive crying or irritation, excessive worry or sadness, unhealthy eating or sleeping habits, difficulty concentrating, which may be signs of your child struggling with stress and anxiety.
  • Try to attend school activities and meetings. Schools may offer more of these virtually. As a parent, staying informed and connected may reduce your feelings of anxiety and provide a way for you to express any concerns you may have about your child’s school.
  • Ask your school about any plans to reduce potential stigma related to having or being suspected of having COVID-19.
  • Check if your school has any systems in place to identify and provide mental health services to students in need of support. If so, identify a point of contact for these services at your school.
    • Name of school point person
    • Contact information
  • Check if your school has a plan to help students adjust to being back in school. Students might need help adjusting to how COVID-19 has disrupted their daily life. Support may include school counseling and psychological services (including grief counseling), social-emotional learning (SEL)-focused programs and curricula, and peer/social support groups.
  • Check if your school will provide training for students in mindfulness, incorporating SEL into classroom curriculum (either virtually or in-person), or support a child’s ability to cope with stress and anxiety. If not, consider asking about ways to add this to your child’s at-home learning.
  • You can be a role model for your child by practicing self-care:
    • Take breaks
    • Get plenty of sleep
    • Exercise
    • Eat well
    • Stay socially connected

The CDC also offers an In-Person Learning Checklist to help you and your family prepare for re-entry to school.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention | Back to School Planning: Checklists to Guide Parents, Guardians, and Caregivers, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/parent-checklist.html | public domain. Retrieved April 1, 2021.
School photo created by freepik – www.freepik.com

Do you need someone to talk to? Care Managers can arrange a free 30-minute Care Consultation so you can explore options with an expert. We invite you to call or email our Care Managers at 650.688.3625 or careteam@chconline.org to set up an initial Parent Consultation appointment. CHC teletherapy services are available now.

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