In a typical school year, the first weeks of school are both exciting and nerve-wracking for students, teachers and parents/guardians alike. This year with students starting virtually, the transition from summer to school is even more challenging. Students may miss their friends and teachers and the structure of the in-classroom experience. In fact, in a recent poll, 8 out of 10 parents report that their children are experiencing heightened stress levels due to COVID-19.1
We, at KIPP SoCal Public Schools, believe that learning cannot happen unless our students are feeling well, safe and protected. With that in mind, KIPP SoCal is launching #WellnessWednesday: monthly information sessions, weekly Q&A's and daily 'Calm Corner' inspirational videos!
“It is normal for students to feel either excited, nervous or indifferent about going back to school and typically their feelings level out within the first 6 weeks of school,” says Jasmine Lamitte, Director of Mental Health and Support Services at KIPP SoCal.
Rest assured that back-to-school blues does not mean that a child has clinical depression or anxiety, but it is definitely something to be responsive to in order to prevent further distress!
Here are 5 ways to identify if your child has the Back-to-School Blues:
- Decreased interest in favorite activities or low energy
- Increased irritability, short-temper, frustration
- Frequent sadness, tearfulness, or crying
- Major change in sleeping (e.g. insomnia or excessive sleeping) or eating habits (e.g. overeating for comfort or loss of appetite)
- Low self-esteem, feeling lack of confidence or making negative comments about their self-worth
This year is unlike any other, therefore, “we should all be aware of the potential warning signs that a child is not adjusting to Distance Learning or is experiencing especially low mood due to social isolation,” states Lamitte.
We also need to be aware of family stressors during this time of economic stress. Did you know that “one of the big sources for children's anxiety is actually parent/[guardian] anxiety? [...] Most of the time it's non-verbal communication, most of it is how they see [adults] handle new situations.”2
We are here to help—our Mental Health & Support Services team shares advice to navigate this time:
- Show yourself some grace and love. Be kind to yourself, this isn't easy and you're doing the best you can with what you have! Take things one day at a time.
- Make time for your own self-care (even if short). Your stress trickles down to your child—they know when you're stressed! Take care of your physical and mental health.
- Tap into your village. In other words, ask for help when you need it, whether from family, friends, or your KIPP SoCal public school. If you don't feel you have a support system, consider establishing a caregiver support group with others in your school community.
- Try meditation. You can download a meditation app to help relieve stress such as "Calm," "My Life" or "Headspace"
- Seek out mental health support. If you feel you're experiencing significant low mood or energy for longer than 6 weeks don’t hesitate to get support.
Sometimes life can be overwhelming and it can be hard to work through difficult times for us all. But, there is nothing wrong with saying, “I am sad.” There is nothing wrong with saying, “I need help.” As a community, we have to normalize talking about mental health. Let’s destigmatize mental health. Let’s talk about it.
Join us on Facebook Live @kippsocal each month as Jasmine Lamitte, Director of Mental Health & Support Services, and Dr. Stephanie Nuñez, EdD, PPSC, Mental Health Program Manager, lead our #WellnessWednesday sessions.
About Jasmine Lamitte:
Jasmine Lamitte, Director of Mental Health & Support Services, is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Lamitte is a native of Southern California and received her B.A. in Psychology and Africana Studies from Pomona College and a Master's in social service administration from the University of Chicago. Prior to joining KIPP SoCal team and family, Jasmine spent 4 years on Chicago's South Side in both Chicago Public Schools and Charter Schools.
If you need immediate assistance and have insurance, check to see if you have mental health services in your plan. Your job may also have a plan for work-related stress called, “Employee Assistance Programs.” Lastly, our KIPP SoCal school counselors are sending home an optional needs assessment to connect families to resources and feel free to let them know that you are looking for free or low-cost counseling. Lamitte wants you to know that “we will do our best to assist.”
1The Education Trust. (2020). Retrieved from edtrust.org.
2 Lawlor, Melissa Roja. (2018, July 13). Retrieved from www.care.com.