WASHINGTON (WJBF) – The new school year takes on different meanings for parents and children. Many are excited about schools being open for in-person learning while others are concerned about the rise in COVID-19 cases. Along with worries about their children’s safety in school, parents are also concerned about their children’s mental health as they navigate the new school year.
Dawn Stastny, Georgia Parent Teacher Association (PTA) president, was concerned about her 16-year-old daughter returning to school because of health issues. Even though her daughter is fully vaccinated, Stastny is worried about her being around unmasked people.
“My 16 year old has severe lung problems and so her whole life we’ve had to deal with her being out of school because she has issues on and off,” Stastny said.
Tanequa Rhodes has two children in school, one in kindergarten and the other in fourth grade. Both children learned virtually all last year and were excited to be back in school this year. The rise in COVID cases did concern Rhodes but she knew her children would like being in the classroom again.
“What I choose to do is just pray over my children and trust them with God once they leave from with me,” Rhodes said.
Along with the physical health of students, the Georgia PTA president also had concerns about their mental health.
“The isolation and the grieving has been outrageous,” Stastny said.
Some students are returning to school after experiencing the loss of loved ones while others are learning to readjust to being in person with peers again. Stastny believes that schools need to focus on students’ mental health by implementing mental health days.
“All days are not created equal. All children are a little bit different. There are different kinds of socialization,” Stastny said.
Alexandre Kisner, researcher at The George Washington University, believes parents should have open communication with their children and their teachers during this time. He also promotes exercise, healthy eating and creativity to help families stay mentally strong.
“Be open and don’t be ashamed because we’re all learning this work, and I think we’re all helping each other,” Kisner said.