Back to School: Supporting your child’s mental health

Local News

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU) – Parents across Siouxland are concerned about the toll the pandemic is taking on their children’s mental health.

“It can cause distress, but the distress does not have to be permanent,” said Laura Phen a
Licensed Mental Health Counselor, with Dean & Associates.

Phen said addressing a child’s fears and anxiety is not a “one size fits all” approach. It’s best for parents to say attention to a child’s needs.”

“One of the biggest things a parent can do is just offer space and offer understanding if the child needs a break, play with what’s familiar, play with their toys, perhaps they need to connect with their friends and they want to call their friends so parents can set up that experience so they can feel connected,” said Phen.

Jacqueline Pike has four children. She’s having an open dialogue with her kids as they prepare to head back to school during a pandemic.

“All the kids know to give space to everyone that walks by, they know when they get out of the car they automatically put a mask on, they don’t ask, they don’t fight it, it’s just their new normal,” said Pike a Sioux City Mother.

Despite the extra safety measures, her children are looking forward to the social aspects of starting school.

“They’re excited, they haven’t seen their friends for quite a long time so we just say we keep our friends safe by washing our hands, we keep our friends safe by using hand sanitizer, we keep our friends safe by wearing our masks,” said Pike.

But once the first bell rings for students, there can still be a lot of uncertainty on how the school year will unfold. Especially if and when an outbreak occurs.

“When a child would get sick in the classroom and then leave because of the school protocol, parents can offer reassurance that the child will be home for a while and they will be taken care of by their parents, but they will be back to school and that child is safe and will get better,” said Phen.

Pike said she’s staying optimistic despite so much uncertainty.

“I don’t really know what the year is going to bring. I’m not a medical professional, I can’t predict what’s going to happen. I’m hoping for the best and preparing for the worst,” said Pike.

When talking about mental health, it’s also important to note that parents you can’t forget about yourself. Phen says it’s important to take time for yourself to get some exercise in, enough sleep at night as well as have a healthy diet.

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