Struggles children face mount as they go back to class

·3 min read

Aug. 28—On top of usual return-to-school concerns like fitting in and achieving academically, children are facing an added range of stressors as they head back to school, experts said.

Social media can become a space for forms of anonymous bullying. According to the Cyberbullying Research Center, more than 12 studies conducted between May 2007 and April 2021 showed an average of 29% of students reporting cyberbullying. Over the last five years, researchers reported a steady increase in the kids who reported experiencing cyberbullying within the 30 days prior to the study.

Minority students also face the added hostility of racism, both online and in-person, studies show. According to the CDC, students who are Black, Asian or multiple races reported experiencing racism before or during the pandemic with the highest among Asian students at 64% and Black children and students of multiple races each at 55%.

"COVID has put another spin on things," said Dr. Kelly Blankenship, associate chief medical officer for Behavioral Health at Dayton Children's Hospital.

The COVID-19 pandemic upended many people's lives, closing schools and sending kids into remote learning while also impacting their home lives. According to the CDC, 29% of students reported that a parent or other adult in their home lost a job.

According to the CDC, about 37% of high school students reported in 2021 that they experienced poor mental health during the pandemic, and 44% reported feeling persistently sad or hopeless during the past year. More than half of the respondents said they experienced emotional abuse by a parent or other adult in the home, such the adult swearing at or insulting the student. About 11% reported experiencing physical abuse.

The pandemic disrupted the school experience for many kids, with the uncertainty creating additional stress. Shannon Cox, superintendent of the Montgomery County Educational Service Center, said the seniors entering high school this year were freshmen when the pandemic began.

"They're just hoping to get through a school year without there being any disruption to school," Cox said.

Some children had to get readjusted to connecting face-to-face.

"They've been socially isolated in some cases-but they've been connected, through remote learning or digital aspects, they're very connected with one another-but many times, their in-person connections have been a little fragmented," Cox said.

Dayton Public Schools saw this same issue with kids needing to relearn how to have those in-person relationships.

"The things that our students encountered was, coming back from a COVID environment, they had to relearn how to act with larger groups," DPS Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli said. Lolli said counselors and student resiliency coordinators through Dayton Children's worked with students in the past to get them acclimated to in-person learning.

Cox added the elementary-age children are a little more susceptible to what is going on with the adults around them, such as adults losing or switching jobs and their schedules becoming changed. She explained young children have an internal locus of control, so they tend to think that what's happening around them is because of them.

"The adults really do set the tone for their outlook on life," Cox said.

The worker shortage, also referred to as the Great Resignation, has also impacted local schools, creating another lack of consistency for students.

"The older students recognize that there's a real disruption in staffing at schools," Cox said. "Maybe they've had multiple bus drivers or they've had multiple teachers for the same course over the last year or so."

The concern regarding school shootings and gun violence also add another heightened anxiety for kids. Many local school districts provide ALICE active shooting training, which stands for alert, lockdown, inform, counter, and evacuate, in addition to providing school resource officers on site.

Educators also advocate for gun safety, regardless of where individuals' opinions fall in gun debates.

"At the end of the day, if there are guns available, they need to be kept in a safe location with safety locks and trigger locks," Cox said.