LOUISVILLE, Ky. — 2021 is a year filled with change. Changing years, changing grades, and for most children changing from a virtual to a traditional learning environment.
After being isolated from friends due to the coronavirus, students are making their return to the classroom for the first time in nearly a year but with change comes anxiety says Dr. Stephen Taylor with Peace Hospital.
“Quiet time in the summer at Peace Hospital and things pick up a little bit more in general when kids are back to school. We get more referrals during the school year than we do during the summer so we would normally see more kids anyway but given the pandemic I suspect we will be seeing quite an uptick,” Taylor said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) there has been an increase in behavioral health related emergency room cases from 2019 to 2020. Children ages 5 to 11 saw an increase of 24% in one year and in children 12 to 17 there was a 31% increase for the same period.
Dr. Eloise Weeks, the behavioral health medical director for Kentucky Anthem Medicaid says she’s seen an increase in cases. “Studies show that children have shown or reported an increase in unhappiness by 30% so what this shows is that children have been impacted by the pandemic although we may think this is a problem that mostly affects adults, children are experiencing the effects of the pandemic themselves,” Weeks said.
Doctors are asking parents and teachers to look for signs of anxiety, lack of concentration or focus, and difficulty completing work.
“Kind of watching for those withdraws, change in behavior, if it’s a kid that the teachers know or if it’s a kid that you know from previous years and seeing a sudden change in how they look or how they are talking or how they behave, those are things we want to be very careful about and make sure were tending to their needs if we see there’s something we need to be addressing,” Taylor said.
But the ones sitting behind the desks aren’t the only ones facing challenges. With the amount of time students spent out of the classroom, Weeks said teachers will need to reteach concepts.
“So it’s important also for teachers to be aware that there may be some regression, there are certain tasks that may have to be retaught despite that not being appropriate or necessary in that age group,” Weeks said.
Although doctors suggest children learn in a face to face setting, with the delta variant cases on the rise safety is their number one concern.
“Our mantra is there’s no substitute for two people in a room and even though we can conduct our work and get things done virtually nothing substitutes for being in the presence of each other so I think it is very important for the kids to be able to be in school but it’s also important to keep them safe and safety overrides the wish to be together,” Weeks said.
Although children are seeing the effects of the pandemic so are the parents, doctors suggest taking time for yourself.