Safely Back to School: How to talk to your kids about going back to school amid pandemic

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Posted at 6:00 AM, Jul 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-30 20:02:26-04

Safely Back to School is a new initiative from RTV6 to help empower parents, students and educators to make decisions based on facts to safely return to the classroom. Click here for more stories and resources.

INDIANAPOLIS — The new school year amid the pandemic has brought on it's own set of challenges. With that uncertainty, not only parents are feeling the stress, but kids are too.

Dr. Jerry Fletcher is a Child Adolescent Psychiatrist Ascension St. Vincent. He says the pandemic is the reason behind a lot of depression and anxiety he is seeing with his patients.

"Kids understand the isolation, the lack of communication, the lack of attachment to friends, is becoming a significant issue both in terms of their self-esteem and how they well they relate to the rest of the world," Fletcher said.

The best thing a parent can do is to keep an open conversation with their kids. This helps ease any anxiety they may be feeling.

Fletcher explains the fear kids have right now is not necessarily the pandemic itself, it is the fact that their lives are so different. It is important to validate their feelings and keep things honest.

"The important thing is to acknowledge the fear that the child has and to be able to process those fears regularly and continue to do that over time," Fletcher said. "You don't just have this discussion one time, it is something that has to evolve as the pandemic changes in terms of our adjustments to it. So repetitive discussions, discussions that are based on positives, discussions that give them the sense that lots of people are working on this issue, there are smart scientists that are trying to get a vaccination so it goes away. So it gives them the hope that things are going to be stable in the future, but in the meantime, do what you can to stabilize each day for them."

Parents should also try to keep their children's schedules as consistent as possible. This can help with making a very unpredictable time feel a little more secure.

"We are creatures of habit and children, and adults too, but children, in particular, need to have a schedule so they can have their life predicted," Fletcher said. "So as best you can, try to keep a schedule not just at school but at home. You want to be able to get up at the same time, have a schedule of the day, go to bed at the same time and make it as predictable as possible and that is going to allow kids to be most comfortable."

Kids also can pick up on their parents' feelings of anxiety.

Fletcher recommends parents need to try to help themselves as much as possible in order to be there for their kids.

If their kids have questions that a parent simply can not answer, he says working together with your child to find those answers can be helpful for both child and parents.

While having these discussions, keep things on a positive note and continue to ensure healthy habits for a greater good.

"One of the things that ends up being important is that not to tell them that the things they need to do like that from a position of fear but a position of caring about others," Fletcher said. "We wear the masks so we don't give problems to other people, we clean the surfaces and we clean our hands so we don't harm other people, it's not that you don't have to be scared of getting that yourself, but you have to look at it as a positive way for other people. And kids will take that much better than they will being scared to doing the activities you want them to do."

Kids are facing adjustments because of the pandemic, but Fletcher says if parents start to see significant symptoms like lack of sleep, obsessive fears, not wanting to leave their parent's side and look/act more depressed, it would be best to see a doctor for an evaluation.

For information and fact for families on how to make these types of discussions happen, click here.