COVID Puts the Microscope on Education Concerns: Post 5

Final Thoughts: The Effects on Mental Health and How We Strive to Alleviate Them

Adolescents and young adults are still making developmental gains emotionally, physically, etc, which makes them more susceptible to mental health concerns such as depression and anxiety, says Dr. Amanda Fialk, a social worker specializing in adolescent and young adult mental health. (1) 

Now we have added to that the stressors of COVID-19 such as: navigating technology, fear of personal and family infection, and the loss of social activities after months of lonesome social isolation. (2)

Some of those most affected by the disruption of the pandemic are young children in their earliest years of education with working parents, who have a “double whammy” of less time with parents and with other children. There are older children who have fallen behind in core academic areas and have struggled with lack of concentration and physical activity and some have shown signs of mental distress. (3) 

Children and adolescents with dyslexia are particularly vulnerable to these issues. That’s because many tend to blame themselves for their own difficulties. Years of self-doubt can erode a person’s self-esteem which makes them less able to tolerate challenges. When they develop a sense of mastery over their environments (school and social interactions), they also develop a feeling of being in control, which is the best way to eradicate stress and anxiety. (4)

With the inconsistent school reopening plans in many areas (now closing again in response to the rise of COVID-19 clusters), young people are losing a sense of predictability through their school schedule, which was providing a sense of stability during a time of overwhelming uncertainty. A child’s relationship with their school is profound and powerful, impacting mental health and emotional stability. (5)

It is for these reasons that we chose to reopen this fall with face-to-face instruction as an option, doing everything we can to ensure the health and safety of our students and staff. The gains our students have made during their time with us prior to the closure in March were too important to them, and us, to allow the possibility of back-sliding as a result of the loss of typical structure and routine they get at school, as well as their social interactions with both teachers and classmates.

As you can see from our previous posts, we were already addressing many of the areas of concern in The Atlantic article “School Wasn’t So Great Before Covid, Either.” Prior to the pandemic we already:
-had a policy for homework overuse,
-had effectively implemented mixed age & small group learning,
-were using outdoor learning regularly, and
technology use was already an integral part of our curriculum.

These measures, combined with our small school size (each building is below the maximum number for group gatherings) and classroom size (maximum of 5-7), make it far easier for us to maintain safe face-2-face instruction than many other larger schools.

Your child’s education and future are important, whether or not there is a pandemic. Because of this, we are going to do everything we can to ensure quality instruction of all types is available to your child, because it matters to you, and your child.

SOURCES:
1. Failk, Amanda. “This is the Mental Health Impact on Young Adults from Erratic School Closures.” Fast Company (October 29, 2020). 
2. Ibid.
3. Hui, Sylvia. “Report: Children lose basic skills under virus restrictions.” ABC News (November 10, 2020).
4. Schultz, Jerome J. Ph.D. “The Dyslexia-Stress-Anxiety Connection: Implications for Academic Performance and Social Interactions.” International Dyslexia Association (2020).
5. Failk.