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Parents urged to monitor children's mental health as students return to school

Mental health tips for children going back to school
Mental health tips for children going back to school 04:27

BOSTON – Students are entering their third year in a pandemic, and going into the school year not knowing what to expect can be stressful.

Dr. Donna Housman, a psychologist in child development and early childhood education, joined WBZ-TV with some tips for parents to help monitor their children's mental health.

"We're all concerned about what this time has meant for our little ones, many who have only known a life lived in a pandemic," Housman said. "The ongoing disruption, changes in routines, and social systems being pulled away have resulted in many children facing emotional, social and cognitive developmental delays."

Housman said the first 1,000 days of a child's life are critical for brain development, and a large number of young children have lived 900 days in pandemic stresses with heightened anxiety.

"That is why now more than ever we really need to be helping children learn how to manage their emotions from birth. What happens in their early years may have a lasting difference," she said.

The key, according to Housman, is for parents and teachers to be proactive and know how to read cues.

Children thrive on consistent routines and predictability. Housman said their feelings need to be acknowledged and validated.

Housman said adults should ask children open-ended "what versus why" questions. In addition, parents need to first be aware of their own emotions and model calmness, since Housman said children learn through observation.

Housman said parents should trust their gut and if they have any concerns seek early intervention or reach out to a pediatrician or teacher.

"The need for teachers and parents to be responsive to children's needs and emotions cannot be overstated," Housman said.

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