BALTIMORE, Md. — As Maryland children prepare to return to school in the next few weeks, experts say ensuring their mental health is stable is a top priority.
Dr. Sharon Hoover, professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, said many children faced more anxieties and stresses than ever before while isolating during the pandemic.
She recommended adults talk with their kids about the possibilities of more disruptions, as the Delta variant makes in-person learning uncertain this fall.
“It can be helpful just to have discussions with your children about things like, ‘Well, we don’t necessarily know how this year is going to go, so what are some ways that you dealt with uncertainty last year?’ ‘What are some of the worry thoughts that you had, and what were some of the more helpful thoughts?'” Hoover suggested.
The Maryland Department of Education recommended COVID-19 prevention strategies for schools but stopped short of mandating vaccinations or mask-wearing. About half of the state’s 24 local school systems won’t require masks in classrooms this fall.
A Kaiser Family Foundation report showed more than 25% of high school students have struggled with worsening mental health since the pandemic started.
Hoover explained it is critical for parents to look out for warning signs of more serious anxiety or depression.
“For example, are their children becoming more socially isolated? Are they highly emotionally reactive or angry in the face of small uncertainties or expectations?” Hoover outlined.
Dr. Rhonda Randall, chief medical officer for UnitedHealthcare Employer and Individual, agreed. She said it is also important to seek professional help, and suggested having kids see their pediatrician if they are struggling.
“They have known your child for many years and have that history with them,” Randall pointed out. “They’re a good place to start and can be a place where you can get your initial screening, if you’re concerned that there may be something more significant, like anxiety or depression.”
She added kids need adults to validate their feelings if they’re feeling anxious or upset. She emphasized letting kids know it is something that all humans experience, even their parents.