Returning to school this year is full of uncertainties, and children are just as concerned as adults.
Although children are known to be resilient, too many unknowns can cause fear. Crossville Counseling Center Social Worker Dr. Denise Weaver said typically, children with fear are already being treated for anxiety disorders.
“One of the things that we know about anxiety is it’s a bred disorder, which means that it is learned behavior,” Weaver said. “Typically if I see a young person who has an anxiety disorder, I typically look to the parent or guardian who is over them to say ‘okay, who in the family is struggling with anxiety?'”
Weaver said since fear is rooted in the unknown, educating children what is known and what can be controlled are useful tools. She said fear keeps children and adults alert and their guards up, but it should not prevent them from moving forward.
Most of the children Weaver sees aren’t concerned about the virus. Every school year beginning brings anxiety and excitement, and this year is no different despite a worldwide pandemic. Common anxieties she sees are who the teacher will be, how much work there will be, if other kids will be nice to them, and if there will be bullies.
“I think it is because maybe the parents are sheltering them from information,” Weaver said. “It may be because kids are resilient and they take it as a very concrete thing. Parents may say ‘this is a sickness,’ ‘this is like a cold,’ ‘this is causing some people to get very sick so we have to wear a mask,’ and so forth. Kids just roll with the punches.”
For the school year, Weaver said it’s important to educate children why it’s important to maintain proper hygiene, not to hug or hold hands with friends, be careful around the drinking fountain, and follow the school’s expectations. She said this will help children mitigate fears that could come from other kids.
“They pick up on the anxieties of others,” Weaver said. “We just have to be prepared for that and helping them be educated on what they know to be true for their family in their home and how they handle themselves. That’s all they can be in control of.”