Tips for Supporting Kids’ Well-Being as School Year Approaches

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SEATTLE — Students are set to return to the classroom in Washington, fueling a mix of emotions.

Health and education professionals have some tips for parents to support their children. While some are excited to be back in the classroom with their peers, others are anxious after a hard year spent largely in isolation.

Megan Bledsoe, a middle school counselor in Vancouver who was named Washington state counselor of the year in 2020, said kids benefit from predictability and consistency.

“So at home, that’s a lot around creating routines,” Bledsoe explained. “And the earlier that families do that, the better that’s going to help their student transitioning into the much more structured environment and routines of school.”

Bledsoe advised parents to connect with schools about the supports they’re offering. While the transition could be scary, she also noted in-person learning has many benefits, such as supporting kids’ social development.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in-person learning for this fall is a priority and offered resources for talking to kids about COVID-19.

Dr. Rhonda Randall, chief medical officer for UnitedHealthcare Employer and Individual, said parents should check in regularly with kids, listening and watching for even subtle changes in their mood or behavior.

She added it is important to prepare for the school year to be disrupted by things such as contact tracing, quarantining or school going virtual for several days if there is a COVID-19 outbreak.

“So just going into the year thinking about, ‘OK, we’re going to be flexible,’ and recognizing that some of those changes may come, and how to adapt,” Randall recommended.

Randall emphasized parents should speak with their pediatricians if they are concerned for their child’s wellbeing.

Bledsoe stressed the importance of talking to kids about how they are feeling as well.

“Also talking to the school counselor,” Bledsoe recommended. “They might have pieces of the puzzle that you don’t have. You have pieces that they may not have. So the more that you connect with them to share what you’re seeing and hearing, the more they can help you kind of find out what’s going on, and if there’s more supports that are needed.”

Featured photo: More than a quarter of high school students reported worsening emotional and cognitive health since March 2020, according to Kaiser Family Foundation research. (JackF/Adobe Stock)

Eric Tegethoff

Eric Tegethoff is a journalist covering the Northwest. Eric has worked as a reporter for KBOO, XRAY FM, and Oregon Public Broadcasting in Portland, Oregon, as well as other print and digital news media. In 2012, Eric traveled to North Dakota to write about the Bakken region oil boom. He's also worked at a movie theater, as a campaign canvasser and quality assurance at a milk packaging factory. Eric is originally from Orlando, Florida. He graduated from the University of Florida in 2010.

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