KATY MAGAZINE NEWS
January 4, 2021
By Natalie Cook Clark
Katy-area children continue to struggle with the emotional and mental effects of the pandemic. How can you support their mental health, and who can help?
The magical pop of a Champagne bottle doesn’t change the fact that there’s still a pandemic. While many families have suffered through this time, it’s important to realize the impact on children and find ways for them to cope.
Both Virtual and In-Person Learners Suffering This Year
Whether students are enrolled in-person or virtually, the classroom environment has changed. Experts report that these changes have resulted in an increase in stress, anxiety, and mental health struggles in youth.
Need for Child Therapy Has Doubled
“Our calls have doubled,” says child counselor Alice Whitten with Brittani Persha Counseling. “There is a huge need for support in developing coping mechanisms.”
Different age ranges handle stress differently. Younger children tend to experience disturbances in sleep, behaviors like irritability, inattention, and clinging behaviors as well as increased meltdowns.
Older children have a range of feelings that include no motivation, trouble focusing, feeling hopeless, and feeling lonely.
Feelings of Loss
“There are feelings of loss,” explains Whitten. “Loss of traditions, normalcy, and routines.”
This doesn’t include children experiencing other feelings of loss associated with grief and the loss of a loved one. Shrinking social circles and overall fear adds to the mental strain on children. Students miss classmates and teachers, but also family members who can no longer visit or regular playdates.
“The loss of social engagement is huge for kids of all ages,” says Whitten.
Another hardship facing students is the need for consistency and structure.
“The desire for structure is something that a child or teen likely cannot articulate but is something that we see as a major loss for all of our clients,” says Whitten. “There is something reassuring about knowing what you are going to do every day.”
Many Katy students still experience adjustments, and even cancelations, of extracurricular activities that they love. These changes serve as additional reminders of the pandemic and how it continues to affect their lives. The lack of control promotes uncertainty and causes stress.
Fears of Virus, Fears for Loved Ones
Many are afraid of getting sick but also worried about the well-being of the caregivers and older family relatives.
“This is weighing heavy on children’s minds in a way we have not seen it before,” says Whitten.
Increase in Family Counseling
In addition to an increase in child therapy needs, the counselors at Brittani Persha Counseling have received more calls for family therapy.
“Families are spending more time together at home and with the pandemic shrinking everyone’s thresholds for patience and changing emotions it’s a perfect recipe for increases in conflict,” says Whitten.
Katy ISD Addresses Mental Health in Legacy Parent Academy
Katy ISD recognized the ongoing anxiety in area youth in the October Legacy Parent Academy. Katy school counselors of various grade levels addressed anxiety and how it related to student fears when reintegrating back into in-person learning.
You can watch the session here.
Future Katy ISD Legacy Parent Academy sessions will also address the mental health of Katy students.
January 20 - Recognizing and Responding to Trauma and Stress
February 24 - Destigmatizing Mental Health
March 25 - Managing Test Anxiety
All Legacy Parent Academy sessions are free and will be held virtually this year. Click here for more information.
Katy ISD Students Return to School Tomorrow
Today, Katy ISD teachers and staff returned to work to get ready to welcome students back to school tomorrow, Tuesday, January 5.
Currently, Katy ISD reports having 263 active COVID-19 cases on the COVID-19 Cases Dashboard.
Like every year, families adjust to returning to routines after the holiday break. The pandemic continues to make this adjustment more pronounced.
“Having a routine, we can rely on gives us a sense of control,” says Whitten. “Without that feeling of control, we can feel lost.”
Many resources exist to help young people struggling during this difficult time. If your student is showing significant distress and needs help, consult a counselor in private practice or your child’s school.
How to Foster Good Student Mental Health
Address parent self-care - Take care of yourself so you can take care of your child.
Be consistent with routine - Set strict wake-up and bedtimes. Establish bedtime rituals to build the routine.
Provide a good learning environment - Make sure your child has a quiet place to learn and complete assignments, and the resources to succeed.
Schedule extra help - Consult your child's teacher or enlist a tutor if your child is struggling academically.
Enforce healthy habits - Eat healthily, get plenty of rest, create an exercise routine, and get time outdoors.
Set family time - Break is over but remember to make time to play as a family.
Foster relationships - If you can't visit family and friends, make time to care for those relationships. Make cards, schedule phone calls, and Zoom chats.
Be aware of changes - Pay attention to any changes in your child's behavior and get help if you are concerned.