Back to School: How We Can Help Kids Through Crisis

Welcome to another school year Patriot family! I am Mrs. Mesa, the school guidance counselor. 2020-2021 will test our resolve and patience from day one. Transitioning back to school is an event filled with emotions for child and parent. Your child may be excited about the new school year, including its challenges, or apprehensive, or any emotion in between.

In addition, the degree to which your child expresses an emotion can be vast. You may find the following suggestions to be helpful in helping your child in whatever comes next. This information was written by Patricia Salow, LMHC at Wellspring Counseling. At the bottom you may listen to her podcast, “Helping Kids in Crisis”.

Kids need our help to get through the changes that we are experiencing with COVID, Back to School and so many other stressors.
Your child sees you worried about the pandemic; or they may be worried about going back to school. Kids are seeing loved ones get sick or die from Covid. Are these considered crises? Crisis is defined by a person’s capacity to cope with a stressor. All of these can be crises for children. Children, given the capacity to bounce back through skills and support, are resilient and can get through these tough times stronger. We can support children during these times.

As we continue to respond to the changing landscape of 2020, we can make sure children feel safe. The Red Cross identifies this as offering assistance and support by being emotionally and physically available to children. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs states food and safety as basic needs. Currently, children are more vulnerable to child abuse or domestic violence by parents who are more stressed. Ask children how they are doing and be open to listening.

Realistic reassurance is another component of support. Offer accurate and timely information without graphic details. An excess of social media or news can affect everyone’s emotional health; so watch enough to get practical information.

Stress reactions in children vary in age. However, some typical reactions are sleeping disturbances, appetite changes, and physical ailments such as headaches and stomachaches. Emotional distress such as anxiety, sadness, fear, and guilt are all normal reactions to an abnormal situation. Starting the new school year with new teachers and friends can also be more stressful than usual.

We can all use healthy distractions such as exercise, reading or hobbies. Music and art help express emotions. And Proverbs 17:22 says, “A cheerful heart is good medicine”. Humor relieves some of the ongoing stress.

Galatians 6:2 says, “Carry each other’s burden and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ”. Support children by sharing positive information and hope. Give them reasonable expectations and discuss government or healthcare leaders’ responses minimally. Listening to older children voice their concerns will validate their thoughts and feelings and gives them the opportunity to learn to navigate uncomfortable feelings.

Additionally, ongoing family issues such as physical and/or mental health can compound the pandemic stress. Sometimes, past stressors are triggered by a new stress such as the pandemic. Reach out for additional professional support if you or a loved one is experiencing a crisis or needs additional support.

Watch WellSpring Counseling Podcast, “Helping Kids in Crisis”

Monica Mesa
Guidance Counselor, Florida Christian School