How to manage stress going back to school in a pandemic

Local News

BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) ––– As students prepare to head back to the classroom during the fourth surge of Coronavirus, they may be more likely to experience higher levels of stress.

“We have to give kids a little bit of grace and understanding that like, this is a brand new kind of semi terrifying experience for them,” says Rachel Kermis, a Family Medicine Physician from Baton Rouge General.

Schools are returning to in-person learning this year, which could be difficult for some students to readjust. Kermis says it is vital for parents and teachers to check in with their kids about how they are feeling, “this is a brand new kind of semi terrifying experience for them.”

She says it is expected for some kids to have behavioral problems as they adjust, “see where they’re coming from and try not to yell at them if they’re having a problem adapting and try more to understand and use it as a teaching opportunity.”

You may need to sit your child down to reexplain what is going on and why they need to do things like wear a mask a keep their hands clean. “We want to reiterate to everyone the importance of wearing them, and explain to the kids why you’re doing it, but not to the point where we’re terrifying them,” says Kermis. When in doubt, keep the language simple and easy for them to understand.

Kermis says an easy way to help kids not feel so overwhelmed by the pandemic is to involve them in some of the decision-making, “back-up masks are always a good idea, especially for the little ones… they can pick which one they want to go with their outfit or whatnot so they feel like they have a little bit more ownership in their decision-making instead of just being told, no, you have to wear this one.”

Not all kids will act out if they are feeling stressed. Kermis says there are certain behaviors you should look out for, ” if you notice someone being a little bit more withdrawn, or they’re sleeping more, or they’re a little more irritable where they’re lashing out more, or acting out more, I think that’s enough to maybe have them come in and talk to somebody or the parent can sit down and try to have an open conversation.” It is critical not to make the kid feel judged for the feelings they are having, “make them feel empowered that we will do whatever we can to help you feel better with it, and I think one of the worst things you can say is, well just suck it up or smile or think positive and it’s going to get better,” says Kermis.

Doctors typically look for this kind of behavior during regular wellness visits, and Kermis says during the pandemic, many parents did not keep up routine wellness visits for their children, “I think they were worried about sitting in the waiting room or something and having that exposures COVID.”

Parents often ask doctors what to do if they think their child was exposed to COVID-19. Kermis says to watch out for “any respiratory type symptoms. So a little bit of a cough, runny nose, sore throat, they feel tired, that could be a sign of COVID because again, we’re not really seeing the stereotypical symptoms everyone’s presenting with a bad cough and headache. It’s willy-nilly still, so any question, I would really have them come in and get tested either with the rapid tests at the urgent care or with the PCR tests that are a little bit more acurate.”

But the best protection from COVID-19, Kermis says, is getting the vaccine if your child is eligible, “I’m strongly encouraging them to get the vaccines the governing body for pediatrics, they are recommending kids get it… there’s a lot of really smart, great people who think it is a fantastic thing, and I agree with them.” If you are unsure if the vaccine is suitable for your child, ask your pharmacist or family doctor for advice.

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