Talking to kids about the disrupted school year

Under normal circumstances, the month of May is the end of the school year for students and the often-revered transition into summer break.

For most teens, this schedule has been part of their life since their first year of school.

Now that summer is starting and this highly-disrupted school year is ending, the emotional toll of the shortened semester and cancellation of many activities may become more realized for teens.

Mental health providers at Centura Health are advising parents to be mindful of these emotions and connect with students now to help them process the loss of treasured events and celebratory occasions.

Doug Muir, a licensed clinical social worker at the Behavioral Service Line Director at Centura Health - Porter Adventist Hospital in Denver, said the end of the disrupted school year can evoke a wide range of emotions in students.

Muir encourages parents to speak with their children regularly to understand how they’re coping.

“Giving children the opportunity to talk about their feelings and emotions is a healthy way to process stress and anxiety and help identify if professional mental health treatment is needed,” he said.

Some suggestions of approach to have these conversations include:

Scheduled family time or other family activities are good opportunities to check in and provide the space to share concerns.

Focusing on gratitude or three good things about each day can build resiliency in teens.

Safely connecting to celebrate occasions and honor the transitions in their lives that have been disrupted such as virtual proms, video chats and birthday parades.

Remember that teens don’t communicate in the same way as adults. For many teens, text messages and social media apps are their norm and they have a greater need to socialize than adults.