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Monitoring students’ mental health during the pandemic

Published: Nov. 19, 2020 at 8:09 PM EST
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ASHLAND, Ky. (WSAZ) - The topic of mental health has been a major concern and area of focus during the ongoing pandemic, and students are no exception.

“We have to try to walk this very fine tight rope of doing what’s best for our kids,” said Dr. Donald Ford, a family physician with the Cleveland Clinic. “Trying as best as we can to keep the educational process alive but when it’s too dangerous and those risk alerts go up, then we have to be prepared to flex.”

Heather Music is both a mother and an educator. She says it’s all about balance, having reasonable expectations and honest conversations.

“She says, ‘you know, we didn’t have to turn on our cameras, so she’s like I fell asleep during the class,’” Music said, referring to her daughter.

Dr. Ford says everyone’s emotions are heightened with the pandemic, and feelings need to be evaluated and respectfully considered.

“There could be some long-term ramifications of that in terms of how the kids are feeling about themselves,” Dr. Ford said. “How they’re feeling about their families and how they’re feeling about the education process.”

For a lot of parents and students, their stress and anxiety is through the roof, with constant changes to schedules and routines often being adjusted. Many teachers are also making modifications on the fly.

“It’s a very challenging balance that we’re trying to find with our children because we want them to thrive,” Dr. Ford said. “We want them to grow, we want them to have the best experience they can in school, have a normal childhood and at the same time we want to keep everybody safe so that next year we’re all gong to be safe and sound.”

Music says it’s an important dialogue to keep open between parents and teachers to make sure students are doing OK. If either notices any strange behavior, they should be communicating with one another. As an example, recently she heard a student crying during one of her virtual math lessons. After talking with the parent, she learned the student wasn’t feeling well and needed to log off and get some rest.

“When students are upset, usually in-person you can go to them quietly and say ‘hey are you OK?’ When you’re online, every other student hears you, so it’s not as private to ask them what’s wrong,” Music said.

Jeremy Holbrook is also a parent and says he’s monitoring his son’s behavior, looking for signs of frustration and knowing when to take a break.

“Can we shut the Chromebook down, let’s go take a walk on a beautiful day like today,” Holbrook said. “That’s going to matter more in the long run, my kid is going to learn more about the whole pandemic by how they remember me reacting.”

It’s a lesson the whole world is learning together: how to be kind, be patient and be understanding.

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