Dr. Jamie Freeny, Director of the Center for School Behavioral Health at Mental Health America of Greater Houston, said parents may see their children's behavior changing if they are experiencing trauma, general anxiety, depression or impact of isolation due to the COVID-19 crisis.
"We know research supports that the development of social and emotional skills, the majority of it comes from school setting during adolescent and child age," Freeny said, "So, extending school closures could be harmful because it will curtail or limit the amount of physical contact and it will limit access to resources."
She said parents can help their children cope by implementing the following:
- Having an open dialogue and answering questions they may have.
- Having a positive outlet such as exercising or taking breaks outside.
- Reducing the amount of media and social media your children are consuming and model the behavior they want their kids to see.
"Especially for young children, structure is crucial but then you can also set those expectations for you adolescent aged children so that they are in some sort of routine and they have time to work out some of that energy," Freeny said.
Shubhra Endley, Communities In Schools Director of Wellness and Mental Health, said CIS is offering mental health services through support groups and online resources, using Microsoft Teams and other platforms to reach students and parents.
"It doesn't matter if you are a 5-year-old or if you're 50 years old. There's always someone to reach out to via someone in your family or friends," Endley said. "Unfortunately, it's become our reality to do whatever it takes to support our students."
Endley said it's important for parents, students and staff to know they are not alone and the time to reach out for help is now.
"It is a collective experience and that none of us are alone in this and that we're in it together," Endley said.
You can find links to resources and more information on mental health:
-Mental Health America of Greater Houston: COVID-19
-National Child Traumatic Stress Network
-UNICEF: Supporting your child's mental health as they return to school during COVID-19
-Communities In Schools Houston: Mental Health Initiatives
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