Consistency key to children’s mental health during pandemic, holidays


COLUMBUS (WCMH) — As coronavirus cases rise across the nation, many schools are making the decision to move back to remote learning.

Child experts say the inconsistency of a school routine, especially during the holidays, can be a concern for children’s mental health

“I think it’s that unpredictability that is so difficult for kids and parents alike. Any consistency that they can create through the home environment is really important,” said Dr. Parker Huston, clinical director of On Our Sleeves at Nationwide Children’s.

As a pediatric psychologist at Nationwide Children’s, Huston spends much of his days talking with parents about the mental stress children face during the pandemic. He’s also a busy dad of two.

“If you can have consistency with, you know, bedtime and playtime, even some other routines when it comes to cooking meals together, that can really off-set some of the stress they feel when school is unpredictable,” Huston said.

Upper Arlington schools recently announced students will return to remote learning until winter break.

“I think the biggest thing that I’ve done to help support my students is just give them a space to talk and feel safe. I think their mental health is something every teacher is concerned about,” said Allison Tomlin, an Upper Arlington teacher.

Tomlin longs for the days before the pandemic when she could snap group photos alongside her students at Hastings Middle School, but she said they have adapted to the virtual learning.

“I’ll tell you what, they are resilient, I mean, they are not skipping a beat, and if they are frustrated, we’re talking through it and working through it together,” Tomlin said.

As a busy mom of two, she has some helpful at-home teaching advice for parents.

“Putting their kid’s feelings first, and asking them, you know, instead of how many assignments do you have? It’s how are you feeling today or what are you excited about or nervous about going into your day,” Tomlin said.

Houston said it is even more important for parents to keep a routine during the holiday season.

“Who couldn’t use an extra hour of sleep in the morning, or who couldn’t use a little bit more free time for entertainment during the day, what seems like a good idea in the moment is pretty stressful for kids in the long term,” he said.

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