Back To School Anxiety Amid COVID-19

CBSN Bay Area's Len Kiese talked to Dr. Allyson Holmes-Knight about how parents can help their children deal with the anxiety of going back to school during the pandemic.

Video Transcript

LEN KIESE: Going back to school during a normal school year can be stressful enough but even more so during the pandemic. Dr. Allyson Holmes-Knight joins us now. She's a psychologist who specializes in teen mental health. Thank you so much for joining us. What kinds of fears and anxieties could our children be experiencing right now?

ALLYSON HOLMES-KNIGHT: Thank you so much for having me. And we're seeing a lot of anxiety related to going back to school. One, because it's another change that the teens are having to go through. They've kind of had to adjust to distance learning. And now we're asking them to adjust to going back to school with modified school schedules. So they're trying to figure that out and navigate that as well as just being concerned about safety and their health.

They are very aware of the significance and the seriousness of COVID-19. So they're also worried about making sure that they're just safe as they go back to school.

LEN KIESE: So with those worries, how do you reassure your children that it is safe to go back to school?

ALLYSON HOLMES-KNIGHT: Absolutely. As parents and as teachers, it's really important to remind our students that our number one priority is their safety and that there are safety plans at each school district and each school site have already developed and that they are going to be following those protocols. And as parents, we remind our students that there are things that they can do, like wearing their mask and washing their hands and continuing to social distance, which I know is going to be difficult for teens because they're going to be excited to see their friends. But we need to remind them that these are the precautions that we need to take to make sure that they continue to be safe and healthy when they return.

LEN KIESE: Yeah, those things that they can control as well. And some kids may try to hide their stress and anxiety. How can you identify if your child is indeed struggling?

ALLYSON HOLMES-KNIGHT: There are some really clear signs that parents can look for when they're talking to their teens, things like changes in their sleep or their eating habits, teens expressing worries. So we're really encouraging parents and teens alike to continue to have these conversations. And we're encouraging parents to really listen to their teens and their concerns.

Other things that they can look for are teens not having any interests or expressing any desire to do any of those activities that they normally enjoy doing. And we really encourage parents to continue to monitor their teens' social media accounts because teens will often post what they're feeling or what their worries are. And so as parents, we really need to pay attention to some of those warning signs as well.

LEN KIESE: Any other advice you can give to parents to help their children cope with anxiety?

ALLYSON HOLMES-KNIGHT: I would also just continue to normalize this experience for them and say that, yeah, it's not a typical school year and that anxiety will be running high. But there are definitely things that you do as a parent and you as your teen you can do to help protect yourself and ease some of that anxiety. But the number one thing that parents really need to do is to pay attention and listen and give their kids some empowerment, some messages of empowerment about the things that they can do to help control their anxiety.

Other things kids can do are things like breathing techniques, being able to know when they're starting to feel anxious, and checking in with their body and being able to do things like deep, slow breathing to slow that down. Or even sometimes just some rigorous activity will help get what we call the silly willies out of your body so that you can be calm.

LEN KIESE: Yeah, I think we all get those silly willies, right? Valuable information for parents and their children. Dr. Allyson Holmes-Knight, thank you so much for your time. We appreciate it.

ALLYSON HOLMES-KNIGHT: Thank you so much for having me.