COVID impacts new school year for several districts, how can parents help students navigate through changes?


INDIANAPOLIS — The goal was a return to a more “normal” school year.

However, several school districts are already being impacted by COVID-19. Hardly a month into the new school year, some are reporting positive cases, with several students starting the year off remotely due to quarantine.

Just last week, Indianapolis Public Schools announced about 60 kids from Lew Wallace School 107 were told to quarantine after exposure to the virus.

MSD of Wayne Township announced on Tuesday it would require students and staff to wear a mask regardless of vaccine status. It comes in response to 388 students being placed under quarantine due to close contact with a positive case.

“I think there’s a fear and concern that we’re going to end up back to virtual learning,” said Jessica Hood, MSW, LCSW, owner of Indy Child Therapist, LLC.

In July, we spoke with Hood about the overwhelming demand of kids seeking mental health services.

Today, the demand remains high. Hood says she and her new therapists are still taking new clients without a wait list.

While kids are mostly excited to be back in school, Hood says many parents have expressed concern for the future, the unknowns and how it could impact their children.

Hood recommends talking to kids about the changes, and why they’re happening, in an age-appropriate way.

“Whatever your family decides, as far as what you’re going to do in order to keep yourself safe, explain why you need to do that,” she said. “I don’t think there needs to be bad mouthing about the other side and what they’re choosing to do.”

“How we present the information to kids is going to dictate their response to that,” she added. “So if we are anxious and nervous, or angry and upset, kids are going to pick up on that and they’re going to respond the same way. They’re going to take that into the school environment with them and respond to administrators, and teachers, the same way.”

Hood says kids thrive on consistency and routine. Though it may seem unattainable with the changes due to COVID, she says parents can help maintain a little bit of normalcy at home, in small ways, no matter where their child is learning from.

“Just picking two or three things that are routine, that you do the same,” said Hood, “So maybe bedtime is routine, and that is the same, regardless of where you are. Maybe it’s making sure there’s a note in their backpack regardless, or it’s that one thing that’s in their lunchbox that’s the same they can count on every day.”

“Part of it is building in some routine and consistency where there may not be otherwise,” she added.

Lastly, Hood says parents, guardians and teachers can continue to monitor signs of anxiety or depression in their child or student.

She says kids can present some of the signs through misbehavior, anger, irritability and restlessness.

“If they (teachers) are seeing kids being super restless or fidgety, or they’re seeing kids being really irritable and grumpy, just a do a check-in with them about their feelings, and the same goes for parents,” said Hood.

If you’re concerned, Hood recommends seeking advice from your primary physician, or a mental health professional.

For more on Indy Child Therapist, LLC, or to inquire about services, you can call their office at 317-683-0031.

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