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Experts Offer Tips On How To Help Children Deal With Anxiety As They Return To School Learning In The Coronavirus Era

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The start of the school year is always full of emotions for kids, and given the coronavirus pandemic, this year those emotions will likely be heightened.

On Monday, CBS2's Jessica Layton spoke with experts to find out how to help children cope with anxiety.

It's a crisis that's thrown a curve ball into the social lives and schooling of kids of all ages, from teens focused on their grade-point average to the littlest learners who should still be carefree.

"It's very stressful not knowing what's gonna happen," high school sophomore Connor Tuths said.

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Six-year-old Emma Essenfeld was supposed to be starting elementary school this week, but coronavirus has kicked normalcy to the curb. Kindergarten will be at home, on the computer.

"I think that the not having social interaction for the younger kids is tough," parent Carrie Essenfeld said.


Concerns from Emma's mom aren't unlike most parents with kids using their dining table as their desk. The emotional impact on kids is something pediatrician Dr. Jeffrey Bienstock has been worried about since March.

"We're seeing children that are normally very outgoing that have now been in quarantine and stuck in the house for days and weeks and months on end now trying to make a break and being told, wait a second, you have to stay home. You have to look at a screen," Bienstock said.

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At the other end of the spectrum are the children who will be going back to their classrooms and forced to wear a mask all day who may be afraid.

Layton asked pediatric mental health expert Dr. Roseann Capanna Hodge, "As a parent, what is the best way that I can help my little girl or guy?"

"Be a role model for your child with both mask wearing, sanitation procedures," Capanna Hodge said. "They need to share with their kids as much as they know about returning to school. What does it look like, paint the picture."

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Doctors say feeling worried during such an uncertain time is perfectly normal for all of us. But if your child's worry becomes excessive and is interfering with normal functioning, that could be a red flag.

"Where it's getting in the way of their sleep or how they're eating or socializing, we want to step up and get them some support," Capanna Hodge said.

She said to remember kids pick up on your emotions, so try to carve out at least 10 minutes a day for stress relief.

"Anything from breathing, to yoga, to meditation, and we can do this on our own, but the best way to do it is with your kids," Capanna Hodge said.

For remote learners, it's important to stay connected to other kids. That's why Carrie Essenfeld is hosting outdoor playdates with friends of families they trust, longing for the day her daughter can meet her teacher in person, hug her classmates, and safely sit in a classroom.

"It's definitely something that I feel a loss for, but we're gonna try and do the best we can," she said.

Right now, that's all any of us can do.

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