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Staying mentally healthy during remote learning falls on parents, caregivers

Cleveland Play House remote learning
Posted at 10:59 AM, Sep 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-24 18:09:45-04

CLEVELAND — While students, parents, and teachers are learning how to learn remotely, mental health professionals say caregivers should also be thinking about the mental health impacts distance learning has on our children.

School is about a lot more than just getting an education for students like high school sophomore Alediy Calderon.

“[School] helps me socially,” said Calderon. “I’m kind of awkward but once I get to know people, I’m more outgoing.”

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"I'm missing the social aspect," said Calderon, referring to her online-only school schedule to start the school year.

The first nine weeks of school is going to be online for Calderon, taking away essentially all of the casual interactions with friends and teachers during and between classes.

“I’m doing art by myself and I miss talking to other people face to face,” said Calderon.

Experts say she isn’t alone.

Clinical Psychologist Dr. Kimberley Brzezowski says this is the time that teenagers are supposed to be figuring out who they really are.

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"[Sports and other activities] that they're used to doing aren't happening and they're being home more," said Dr. Brzezowski. "They're used to being out and about, keeping busy, keeping on their schedules and not having that is big."

“[COVID social distancing practices] takes away a lot from them because they don’t get to see and try on all those hats,” said Dr. Brzezowski. “They’re stuck in the same place all the time.”

Even those unstructured interactions with teachers and friends have a real impact on making all students feel good.

“Hey, how did you do on that test,” Dr. Brzezowski said, demonstrating the kind of conversation that can help keep kids on track. “Are you struggling with your math? What’s going on at home? My mom is really frustrating me this week.”

Remote learning takes those casual check-ins away.

For younger students, behavioral issues generally aren’t helped by remote learning. Clinical psychologist Dr. Seandra Walker says younger children learn a lot through example when they see how people talk to each other or suffer the consequences of misbehaving.

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"Children are learning not only their own emotions and how to act emotionally, but they’re observing behaviors from other people about what’s appropriate and not appropriate," said Dr. Walker.

“So they’re not getting that through a screen,” said Dr. Walker. “They’re getting that in face to face situations, how to problem solve with other kids, how to deal with conflicts.”

She says that leaves parents to take a larger role in filling in the gaps.

If you’re concerned about the impact social distancing is having on your student, here’s the Rebound Rundown:

  • Pay attention to your student’s behavior. Parents are the ones who know best what might be out of the ordinary.
  • Try to do as many activities outside the home as possible while staying safe. Socially-distanced outings with friends and family might be worth the mental health benefits.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help from a mental health professional.

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