With an unusual spring break 2021 completed for many schools and colleges, another unsettled school year will soon end. Uncertainties, missed milestones, and disrupted routines continue to weigh on students and their families for the second straight spring.
Several recent studies show how virtual learning and social distancing have hurt students’ mental health over the past year. In one spring survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, anxiety and depressive disorder has been elevated for adults age 18-29 since early in the pandemic. In a related CDC study, which looked at the pandemic’s impact on children age 5-12, those who attended school remotely full time were twice as likely as those who attended class in-person full time to have decreased physical activity and time outside. Remote learners also were significantly less likely to spend time with friends virtually or in-person. As a result, more adolescents who were in online learning environments reported worse mental and emotional health.
“Students are coping with grief and loss as they have missed out on dreams for activities, classes, friends, and other opportunities,” said Rosecrance Jackson Centers Vice President of Clinical Services Brenda Iliff. “Even though the unusual nature of the year may seem ‘normal’ by now, it still is anything but that because they continue with limited access to many of their key support systems.”
One way adults can help adolescents finish the year strong is to set an example of self-care, compassion for others, and resilience in the face of life challenges.
“I know it might be hard under the circumstances, but being a role model is one of the best things adults can do for others, especially children,” Iliff said. “Children are so good at picking up cues from adults that they will instinctively react to challenging situations the way they see us handling them. If we demonstrate healthy coping skills and show that we are safe and approachable, they will likely handle their own inner turmoil in more positive ways.”
To help students finish the year strong, Rosecrance Jackson Centers offers a few other suggestions for families:
- Watch for any behavior change, mood swings, altered sleep or eating patterns, or self-harm.
- Without becoming a helicopter parent, monitor children’s web and social media use for inappropriate content or conversations.
- Have open, honest conversations about current events and life stress as a family. If the adults are honest about their struggles, it will be easier for children to share their feelings.
- If you don’t feel comfortable discussing something with your family, reach out to a trusted professional. For adults, that could be a counselor, therapist, or religious leader. For youth, that could be a school counselor or social worker.
- Take an occasional break. A walk, quick workout, mindfulness activities, reading books for fun, and other hobbies are excellent stress relievers.
The latest episode of Rosecrance’s “On Your Radar” podcast also offers helpful expert insights into teen substance use and mental health.
Please contact us, even if you’re unsure you or a loved one needs assistance. Caring staff will be happy to listen to your concerns and direct you to the right resources. Rosecrance also can assist even if you have lost your employer insurance because of COVID-19. Please call us at 800.472.9018 or visit rosecrancejackson.org.