Kids may face anxiety as school year starts following year of pandemic instruction

DAYTON, Ohio — School districts in the Miami Valley will soon be starting classes, and with so many changes over the past year, it can cause some anxiety.

After the 2020 school year ended early, and this past year, many kids were in a constant back and forth situation from in school learning to remote learning, while some did hybrid learning. It was a lot of adjusting and as COVID cases continue to rise, there’s still a lot of uncertainty about what this school year will look like.

Dr. Erin Webster is a pediatric psychologist at Dayton Children’s and she said, “it can increase general anxiety about returning to school. The structure of their day has been significantly altered.”

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Dr. Webster said, with some kids going back to school full time for the first time in more than a year, it may be difficult to adjust.

“Even just sitting in a classroom paying attention for 6 hours a day can be really challenging,” Dr. Webster said.

Not just from an academic standpoint, but from a social aspect too.

She said, “It feels silly but navigating social interaction takes practice. So, when you’ve had to do that in a limited capacity or via video, it feels like you’re out of practice and you struggle with starting those conversations.”

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As the start of the school year inches closer, parents may notice their kids have reservations about heading back to class. Dr. Webster said when anxiety becomes strong, that natural response is to avoid situations that increase it.

“If talk of going back or homework, if they’re saying I don’t want to go back, that could be a sign they have anxiety,” Dr. Webster said.

She also noted that anxiety can also manifest physically. “They may complain of headache or stomachache, along with any sleep disturbance or increased irritability.”

For parents, the best thing Dr. Webster said they can do is be proactive. Start now by reassuring kids they are safe. Parents should also take time each day to check in and see how their kids are adjusting.

Dr. Webster said if your child goes to a school requiring masks, easing them back into mask-wearing by having them wear one for a short period of time each day leading up to the first day can make that transition easier.

Kayla Courvell

Kayla Courvell

I was born and raised in a small town just north of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and decided as a child I was going to be a news reporter.