MUSE News

Talking to Your Kids About Mental Health

Mental Health

The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed the ways in which we interact with one another. Technology has replaced face-to-face interaction. Hugs and handshakes have been lost to social distancing. And hand sanitizer and mask-wearing have impaired our ability to offer a smile to others in public.

For adults, it’s easier to make these adjustments and understand the reasoning behind them to keep your family and loved ones safe and healthy. But for school-aged children, the toll of the pandemic is greater than we could’ve anticipated.

Routines have been changed. Learning has become irregular for some. Others have been jarred by the switch to remote instruction. Some are worried about at-risk family members. The list goes on and on.

Education Is Also Socialization

Education is one of the most significant changes and challenges for students as the pandemic continues. Some students have been able to remain in the classroom. But mask breaks and isolated lunchtimes have replaced socialization. Even the decorations in physical classrooms have been swapped in favor of bare walls, losing the personalized touch that only each individual teacher can bring. And the ever-present threat of switching to remote instruction looms overhead.

Some students have thrived in virtual school settings. But for others, challenges with technology and available resources have created a less-than-ideal learning environment.

Virtual learning has led to reduced social interaction, which is a crucial and necessary component of adolescence. Research and studies have shown that socialization and certain related skill sets are embedded in an educational environment. Schools, as we knew them pre-pandemic, have for decades provided a place for students to learn these interpersonal and relationship-building skills.

Virtual School Adaptation

Now, Google Meets and Zooms have taken the place of in-person instruction. Children are growing accustomed to seeing their teachers and peers on a screen instead of in-person. And because many schools remain shuttered, students aren’t seeing their friends regularly.

This perfect storm of events has left more students feeling isolated. We know that isolation can lead to increased feelings of depression and anxiety, and other mental health issues.

One study showed that prior to the pandemic, 13.4% of children reported symptoms of mental illnesses worldwide. Now, more than ten months in, 22.6% of children reported symptoms of depression, and 18.9% of children reported experiencing anxiety.

In addition, the CDC recently released a report revealing that the number of trips to the pediatric emergency room for mental health-related reasons increased starting in April 2020, and remained elevated through October. Among the 5-11 age bracket, mental health-related visits were up 24% as compared to 2019. That number rose to 31% among the 12-17 age bracket.

Without face-to-face interaction with people outside of their homes, students are reeling. Their mental health is suffering. These numbers indicate a critical need to help our children understand what is happening in the world around them.

What Can We Do?

As parents and guardians, we have a responsibility to make sure that we are informing our children about the pandemic while also keeping them safe. Talking about using hand sanitizer before eating lunch and about the effects of mask-wearing can help normalize these new rules. This can lead to a greater understanding and more open conversation while reducing fears and worries surrounding the pandemic.

A resources page is available for parents and guardians on the CDC website. You’ll find activities, games, and even conversation starters including:

  • What worries you most about COVID-19?
  • Have you been feeling nervous about going back to school because of COVID-19?
  • Wearing masks and staying at a distance from others is not something we were used to doing. How do you feel about that?

The lack of “normalcy” has dramatically changed the lives of students. But we have the tools to help them through this unsettling time.

MUSE Virtual is proud to share pediatric family support through an online psychological group based in Calabassas, CA. For more information, please e-mail info@musevirtualschool.com. We will be happy to send you details.

 If you suspect your child is in need of professional help, don’t hesitate to contact their pediatrician.

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