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How to help kids cope with changes brought by pandemic

Published: Jul. 31, 2020 at 11:14 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Thousands of kids are heading back to school, but it’s far from a return to what they once knew. And parents are on the receiving end of trying to explain why.

"I tried to explain to my son this morning, even if we do go back to school, it's not going to look the way it looked before."

Deciding between virtual or traditional is only part of the tough decision. Tasia Starling-Scruggs says it's been a balancing act for her family.

“It has definitely been challenging trying to decide and figure out what is going to be best for my work schedule, my husband’s work schedule and also the health and well-being of our family and community,” she said.

The anxiety of it all is not just for parents, as Dr. Margaux Brown is looking at its impacts on children, too.

“I think we as adults may be not giving kids enough credit for what they are picking up, and what they do understand,” she said.

Brown is an education counselor at Augusta University, and she says kids see the stress on their parents more than ever. But now more than ever is the time to have conversations at home.

“I think for parents or caregivers, to be able to invite that conversation is a first important step in this time,” she said. “Thoughts are most scary when they’re in our heads. And if we just say them aloud. Talk about them, they become not as scary.”

“My 8-year-old overheard me on the phone with his school this morning and he actually got a little bit upset because he really wants to go back to school,” Starling-Scruggs said.

So Dr. Brown offers this insight: anxiety could go up and down all year. Kids should stick to a routine, something that help them adjusts to the new normal. And parents should consider reviewing the new expected social behaviors like distancing and less touching.

“We have dealt with community trauma with this pandemic. I think if we just go back to normal and ignore it, I think there will be some long-term consequences,” Brown said.

Here is additional information and advice from Brown:

  • Parents should set aside time, device free, to talk with children.
  • They should ask open ended questions to invite conversation.
  • Once they invite conversation, don't expect a response right away. Not all children will be worried or stressed. Once they do get a response, don't "soothe" the child.
  • “Sometimes as an adult and as an educator and even a parent, I want to take away the pain. But, in this instance, I encourage the parents and caregivers to acknowledge the feeling that’s been expressed, and to allow the child to share it with you and to sit in with you to hold that moment, and to avoid rushing to soothing, or problem solving, sometimes being heard and understood is more powerful than having a technique to dealing with concern,” Brown said.
  • Parents should selectively expose their children to their stresses as parents.
  • If parents notice stress is starting to impair their child’s ability to participate in school or to interact with the family, or to eat and sleep in a way that they normally would. Dr. Brown says she would encourage parents and caregivers to reach out to a mental health professional,

If you would live more resources about how to discuss the changes the pandemic has brought with children, visit here: https://www.gadoe.org/External-Affairs-and-Policy/communications/Pages/wc_Mental_Physical_Health.aspx

Copyright 2020 WRDW/WAGT. All rights reserved.

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