Avera Medical Minute: Advice for families as kids go back to school

Published: Aug. 21, 2020 at 7:15 AM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - This school year will look different no matter where you live in the country. There will be physical changes at school while families deal with the stress of the unknown of what the year will bring. It’s important for everyone to remember students are coming from different situations when they go back to school.

"There's really not one right or wrong answer for everybody as we talk about transitioning this fall; that it's normal to have a lot of different feelings about transitioning to fall even if it's excitement or if it's some pretty intense anxiety," Nikki Eining said. She is a mental health therapist with Avera.

There are some ways families can address all of the feelings though.

“Sometimes also, we have to have confidence in ourselves. As a parent, we know our kids the best. We know our family situation the best,” Eining said.

Eining said that’s why people need to show themselves compassion and find someone who has their back through the uncertainty.

"Is it a sibling? Is it a friend? Is it a parent that I know really cares about the outcome for myself, for my kids? And how can I talk to them about how I'm feeling and what I feel is the best decision for me," she said.

It's important families talk to their kids as well about what changes they're going to experience at school.

“If I can motivate my child, if I can practice and pre-teach it and make it more normal, that’s going to be a great thing as we prepare kids for back to school, especially if masks are required,” Eining said.

Dr. Jason Knutson, a family medicine physician with Avera Health, believes whether they’re required or not on campus, wearing a mask is going to be the key to a successful school year.

"It's really hard to pass the virus on with a mask on," Dr. Knutson said. "I think that, that message of doing it out of love for somebody else is a huge message, and I think that's what we need to do moving forward to try to get people to really try to protect themselves and the people around them."

If a child is experiencing any symptom of COVID-19, they should stay home. Those symptoms include fever, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, headache, loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion, vomiting or diarrhea.

"And that's what makes this all so difficult with school starting. There are so many different things that could be coronavirus that we need to be careful on all of them, otherwise we risk spreading it too much and too quickly," he said.

So Dr. Knutson suggests being cautious and supporting one another as we deal with all of this for the first time.

"When we're open, when we're vulnerable about our feelings and our experiences, and we're met with validation and compassion, we build resiliency and we're able to move through those difficult things," Eining said.

If you’re feeling isolated, overwhelmed or lonely as your kids go back to school, you’re encouraged to seek help from a therapist. This link has five tips Avera health professionals came up with to go over as kids go back to school.

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