Return to school could present mental health challenges for students

Updated: Jul. 13, 2020 at 2:53 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Children could potentially return to the classroom in the fall, and while avoiding the spread of the virus seems to be the priority for school districts across the country, there are other challenges as well.

Dr. Justin Dodson of Youth Villages said that the changes within schools, such as wearing masks and social distancing, could lead to more anxiety and depression among children.

“It may send a message to some kids that, ‘Well, if school is back in then things should be back to normal.’ And they’re not back to normal,” he said. “You go into a school and everyone is wearing masks, and things look different. I think for some kids, if you don’t have the right education about what this is going to look like, you may walk into a school and when everything’s different you may be wondering ‘Is this something that I’ve done? What is this all about?‘”

He says students could also become targets for bullying.

“If my mask is dirty, or I don’t have the same PPE, or if I don’t know as much about what’s going on, that can make children more susceptible to bullying behaviors,” said Dodson.

Dodson urges parents to take time to explain to kids, in detail, what to expect if they return to school.

“Getting the right information from the school so you can communicate that to your kid,” he said. “Do some roleplay or some practicing of what that may look like at school, go ahead and do that at home. But patience is going to be the biggest key because now you get to see what education looks like in a time like this, and that’s not always easy.”

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