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Back to school: How to cope with your child’s mental health

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(WVVA)- The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our lives in unexpected ways, causing many to worry. With the new school year approaching that seems to be putting some parents, students, and teachers on edge.

Children's reactions to traumatic events will vary, that's why Dr. Hamm with the Southern Highlands Community Mental Health Center is exposing some helpful tips before classroom doors open.

"It's important to realize children, and adolescence express their stress, depression, and anxiety in different ways. A lot of children don't know how to verbalize that they feel nervous. They may have a decrease in appetite, they may complain of headaches, stomach aches, they may not be able to concentrate," Dr. Alina D. Vrinceanu-Hamm described.

Before students begin to feel any of these symptoms due to the pandemic, Dr. Hamm says conversations need to be held to prepare them about their new normal.

"The conversation has to be at the child's age level, and developmental level. The youngest kids are the most difficult in terms of understanding even the concepts of germs in general, because it's something you can't see but can make you sick. It's important to tell the child that everybody is working together to find the safest way for them to return to school," she continued.

As President Donald Trump continues to call for the return to the classrooms, the White House released new recommendations for schools including additional hygiene methods and tips that staff should use for training their medical personals.

Dr. Hamm says students returning to classrooms helps them to still be able to learn social behaviors while practicing distancing.

"It may not be as good as it was without the social distancing, and restrictions like: No playing in the playground, eating together in the cafeteria, and other things that may not happen the same. It's still better than leaving a child alone in the home. It's definitely a benefit to be in school if that can be accomplished in a safe manner," Dr. Hamm said.

Before heading back to the classrooms parents should follow these guidelines.

"It's important to talk to the children and to plan, prepare, and practice, and model. They need to know that there's a possibility things can change and kind of prepare them for a variety of scenarios. They have to be prepared just in case COVID cases increase in schools causing them to close like they did in the spring until the situation is back under control," Dr. Hamm said.

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