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Back to School: How to support a child’s mental health and well-being during pandemic

Published: Aug. 18, 2021 at 4:07 PM EDT
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(WYMT) - While back to school season is usually filled with anticipation of the year ahead and hopes of making new memories, the Delta variant strain of COVID-19 is posing concern.

“Research from the Kaiser family foundation reported that more than 25% of high school students experienced worsening emotional and cognitive health since March of last year, and 1 in 5 parents of school aged children younger than ages 5-12 reported that they’re seeing worsening conditions for their children,” said UnitedHealthcare Chief Medical Officer Dr. Rhonda Randall.

In Eastern Kentucky, health leaders are also seeing the impact.

“I’m already seeing kids who have started back to school and who have abdominal pain or who aren’t able to sleep or who are you know having trouble with their appetite, are fractious and anxious,” said Appalachian Regional Healthcare (ARH) Pediatrician and Neonatologist Dr. Marjorie Haas.

While there is uncertainty, there are ways parents can support their children. Health leaders say a few include sticking to a consistent schedule and fostering open communication.

“It’s normal to feel stress and if you’re seeing that’s it’s going beyond that piece around stress… if you’re worried that it’s something more, seek the help of a professional that you have access to,” said Dr. Randall “Sitting down for a family meal is another really special routine.”

Additionally, Dr. Haas encourages parents to consider receiving their COVID-19 vaccine.

“You know the vaccines were never intended to prevent infection. They were intended to prevent people who got infected from getting really sick,” she said. “I explain to the parents that this is your best chance to take good care of your kids because until they can get vaccinated, you’re the best chance they have of potentially not being infected.”

Dr. Haas says she thinks the COVID-19 vaccines for children under 12 are more likely to be out in the early winter. The hope was for them to be out at the end of August.

For additional support, Dr. Randall recommends apps that help manage stress and self help; one she recommends is Sanvello.

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