Doctors share mental health advice as students prepare to go back to school

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Jae C. Hong

FILE - In this April 13, 2021, file photo, kindergarten students participate in a classroom activity on the first day of in-person learning at Maurice Sendak Elementary School in Los Angeles. California will require that masks be worn at schools when classrooms open this fall. California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said, Friday July 9, 2021, that not all schools can accommodate physical distancing of at least 3-feet or more, so the best preventative measure is indoor masking.

SPOKANE, Wash. — Students in Spokane will go back to school and learn in person next month. It can be a stressful time for everyone, especially when you throw a pandemic into the mix.

Some students may struggle physically, mentally, or emotionally. Health experts and the state superintendent of public instruction, Chris Reykdal, held a mental health webinar Thursday night to help parents and children through what may be a tough transition.

“Although there will be many new things about this year, there will still be things that children experience last year,” said Dr. Bob Lutz, a member of the state health department’s COVID-19 response team.

Students are going to face some old and new challenges this year, like masking up and social distancing. Some students are going to school for the first time since the pandemic started while others might be going to a brand new school.

Physically, health experts want you to be prepared.

“There’s a pace to it that’s different, so expect students to come back that first week exhausted,” Reykdal said.

Mentally, keep an eye out for things like unusual drops in grades, changes in appetite or sleeping habits.

On an emotional level, watch for sudden changes in behaviors, such as random outbursts.

“What is it that we do to manage our emotions so they can cope and learn through modeling those strategies,” said Indira Melgarejo Carvajal with the Office of Financial Management.

Also, keep the communication open with your child, especially older ones who may not necessarily want to talk about how they’re feeling.

“It’s important for us to be in that space where it is ok to talk,” said Carvajal.

The health experts say the best step you can take is to make sure your child knows you have their back as everyone goes into this school year.

Besides school counselors and mental health professionals, there are resources outside of campus:

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