States and districts across the country are unveiling their plans for the nation’s 56 million school children to return back to school. It’s a stressful time for parents and teachers, as well as students. Experts say it’s important to recognize the signs your child may not be ready to go back.
“I really want to see friends and see teachers, and like, being actually inside the classroom,” said 14-year-old sophomore Amina Ahmad.
Still, there is an uneasiness about whether a return to the classroom would lead to an outbreak.
“Some people really are kind of worried about how many students are actually going back and how many people are going to be there,” said Ahmad.
Politicians, school administrators, and parents are all weighing the potential risks of returning to the classroom. As novel coronavirus cases surge across the country, experts say the psychological toll on children needs to be addressed.
“One of the things that we're seeing a lot is that after being away from that routine for a long time, it is normal for families and for youth to be concerned about ‘how is this going to be?’” said Dr. Tali Raviv, a child clinical psychologist at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago who specializes in student mental and health resilience.
The American Association of Pediatrics says the benefits of in-person learning outweigh the risks and “…strongly advocates that all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school.”
But mental health experts say it’s important to understand how each child feels about going back.
“Because it's a very different situation if a child is worried, ‘I'm not going to have my best friend with me in my little pod’ than if they're saying ‘I'm worried I'm going to get sick and die’ or ‘you're going to get sick and die,’” explained Dr. Raviv.
Dr. Raviv says signs that your student is anxious about returning to school include:
- Any significant changes in sleep, falling asleep, staying asleep, not wanting to sleep alone or having nightmares
- Changes in appetite or a lack of appetite
- Headaches or stomach aches
- Being more irritable, frequent meltdowns
- Withdrawal from friends, family, other activities
Dr. Raviv says if the anxiety is debilitating, it may be time to see a professional.
For sophomore Ahmad, her school’s hybrid schedule, alternating in-person and online classes, has put her mind at ease for now.