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Back To School With COVID-19

Back to school is going to look different for Oklahoma students. Some communities are rotating students on two-day/three-day schedules. Others are combining virtual with in person and others are going all virtual or all in person. Regardless of how school districts prepare, parents, teachers, and children are concerned, worried, and scared. Each state is releasing a “school reopening framework”, yet much like Oklahoma State Department of Education’s plan: “The details of how is determined and will vary widely, based on the extent to which COVID-19 is impacting local and school communities and what processes are feasible and practical for districts.” Yes, each school district has the responsibility of determining what works best for their student population. This leaves many parents emotionally wandering as they attempt to prepare themselves and their children for an August start date.

It is normal for children and even parents to be anxious as summer comes to an end. However, returning during a pandemic takes “anxious” to a whole new level. School supplies now include protective clothing, sanitizer, gloves, and masks. The thrill of buying a superman mask, or one with rhinestones for a girly teen, will be short lived. Entering the building and having their temperature checked, having a teacher ensure their mask is fitted properly, and being handed a small bottle of hand sanitizer can be more than any child, adolescent, or teen is emotionally prepared to handle. Young children can find protective gear scary. They may find it hard to adjust to sitting so far apart, and/or attending just two or three days a week. Having “the talk” has taken on additional meaning and this is where we can help. Hearing parents or guardians say, “Don’t worry”, or “You’ll be ok” for children under 12 is not enough. Improving Lives Counseling Services’ team of counselors and therapists offer children, adolescents, teens, and adults mental health check-ups crafted around COVID 19.

The American Academy of Pediatrics: “Strongly advocates that all policy considerations for the coming school year start with a goal of having students physically present in school. The importance of in person learning is well-documented. Lengthy time away from school and associated interruption of supportive services often results in social isolation, making it difficult for schools to identify and address important learning deficits as well as child and adolescent physical or sexual abuse, substance use, depression, and suicidal ideation.” Yes, the classroom is so much more than hardback books and maps adorning walls. It is also the place a child emotionally affected by returning to school during a pandemic can be identified and helped getting the care they need.

Each returning child will have a different story, will come from a different environment, will have heard something your child was protected from hearing, and will face challenges in adjusting to the new environment. Imagine a kindergarten teacher in full protective gear, scrubs, gown, apron, covered shoes, gloves, mask, and visor. It’s enough to frighten any five-year-old. Can this possibly happen? Definitely. Teachers are just as concerned for their health as parents are for their child’s.

Where do you start? You start with Improving Lives Counseling Services and a mental health check-up. Children, adolescents, teens, and even adults don’t share the whole story. Children want to protect their parents and keep them happy and proud of how brave they are. Most can sense when mom and dad are holding back or simplifying the conversation in an attempt to protect them from the truth.

Children whose parents had COVID will be in those classrooms. Children who had a family member die could be sitting across from your child. Teachers may discuss COVID in the classroom, and what happens when a child raises their hand and says, “I had COVID-19.” There is no way to assess the mental and emotional strain your child might go through, or the COVID information you would rather they not hear.

You’re buying protective gear and masks to protect your child physically, let us help protect them mentally. Improving Lives Counseling Services is here to provide the specific mental and emotional support and guidance you and your child needs before the first day of school. We’ll help prepare your child for social distancing, protective gear, hand washing, and transitioning from virtual and homeschooling back to the classroom. Put your mind and theirs at ease. Call us at 918-960-7852 to learn more.