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According to the CDC, between March and May 2020, hospitals across the country saw a 24% increase in mental health emergency visits for children ages 5 to 11, and a 31% increase for children 12 to 17 years old.

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According to the CDC, between March and May 2020, hospitals across the country saw a 24% increase in mental health emergency visits for children ages 5 to 11, and a 31% increase for children 12 to 17 years old.

Annie Utzen/Getty Images

Most kids across the country are back in the classroom now, but this school year isn’t the return to the normal life everyone had hoped for. Covid-19 cases are on the rise again, and many school districts have it Already closed due to the outbreak. others Offer distance learning options. This school year is already feeling the uncertainty and anxiety filled with many students.

“Teacher, kids, everyone thought we would come back this year and everything would be back to normal,” he says Nicole Christian Bratwett, a child and adolescent psychiatrist and senior vice president of behavioral care group. “Now that that’s not the case, how do we prepare the kids for another potentially challenging year?”

This is a question I’ve been getting a lot of from schools in recent weeks. so, what are you doing? Christian-Brathwaite and other mental health experts gave NPR some advice that parents, teachers, and all adults can use to help children cope better in these turbulent times.

1. Adults, take care of your well-being first.

“There are no healthy children without healthy adults,” says Christian Brathwitt.

She says it’s important for adults who are responsible for children to take care of their mental health, so they can better manage whatever comes their way.

Practice the things that will support your ability to adapt, says Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist Doctor. vera fire, associate vice president of school mental health at Northwell Health.

Foer suggests doing soothing activities like yoga and meditation. She adds that any physical activity can actually help, such as hiking, dancing or exercising. It will help you better manage your emotions and keep you calm during stressful times, she says. And in the process, you can teach your kids or students these important skills as well.

Foer adds, “Children and parents should understand that we all experience anxiety and stress in our lives, and the goal is not to eliminate it, but to learn how to manage it.”

Christian Brathwaite suggests Incorporate calming activities such as meditation into the school day – either at the beginning of the day or as you transition between classes.

“Something as simple as regular practice of meditation or mindfulness, it lowers our stress response,” she says. “It gets kids out of this fight or flight or freeze, and it gets adults out of it, too.”

2. Talk to children about their concerns – and make sure their feelings are valid

It’s important to start talking to children about their emotions and mental health early on, and before things reach a crisis point.

Fauer says families should “provide open spaces for children to discuss their concerns”. “This generation is changing in terms of their view of mental health. And there is a positive shift in the issue of stigma in that children are more willing and able to come forward and talk about things. And in fact, adults need to continue to support who – that.”

The same advice applies to schools, too, says Dina Trujillo, interim CEO of Crisis Text Line, which was created A toolkit called Mental Health School Supplies To help children cope better during these times.

Some of these things seem basic, but they are really important.”

And when children express their fears, say about going back to school, or fear infection, parents and teachers need to accept their fears as valid, Foyer says, and then teach them tools to manage their anxiety and stress, such as yoga, meditation, and mindfulness.

Even better: practice these skills as a family.

“Combine that with family time to give the parents the opportunity to implement these practices, but to open up the conversation,” says Christian Bratwright.

She adds to watch out for changes in behavior such as sleeping and eating patterns.

“Just being aware of these behavioral changes: Is there a decrease or increase in eating? Is there a decrease or increase in exercise? Who are they hanging out with? What are they doing?”

All of these can be indications that the child is starting to suffer emotionally.

3. Be prepared to provide additional support to students And teachers

“I really recommend that you assume that everyone has experienced some level of pain,” he says Chirstian-Brathwaite. “Every child you deal with has some trauma.”

But children’s pain and emotional struggles often manifest in the form of behavioral problems, such as disruption in the classroom or an inability to focus and learn.

For children who cause disruption in class, she advises against taking disciplinary action.

“I’m really telling schools not to implement suspensions or detentions immediately and to really take a more trauma-sensitive lens,” Christian Bratwright says. “Instead of focusing on the behavior, disciplining them, and sending them out of school, which further disrupts the education, let us focus on what is behind that behavior. Where does this pain come from? What is the trigger for this child to act? What happened in the home that might misbehaving with this child?”

She adds that school administrators should take a similar approach to teachers. If the teacher is late, or is having a hard time, she suggests that the principal or supervisor ask the teacher what additional support he or she needs to succeed.

4. Helping children adopt structure and routine

In a world filled with so much uncertainty, structure and routine are friends.

“Some of what’s helpful is actually making a schedule,” Trujillo says. “When you return to this new way of life, structure comes in handy. Jot down this schedule or put it on your calendar so you have that sense of control and stability.”

Foer suggests working beforehand with your child to come up with a structure and stick to it. “Be consistent,” she says.

And if the child is anxious about past experiences that stressed him out, she suggests “cooperative problem solving.”

“Just talk to the kids about what they’re doing [can] Do if it’s going to happen and how to manage it and how to talk about the skills they can use in terms of managing it,” says Foer.

5. Know where to turn for help

If a child is emotionally struggling, or in crisis, know in advance where to get help, Trujillo suggests.

The easiest option for children, their teachers or their families is the Crisis Text Line, by texting HOME to 741741 and communicating with a trained counsellor.

If you know a child who is experiencing thoughts of suicide, you can contact Lifeline for suicide prevention At 1 (800) 273-8255.

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