School is always a complex web for kids to navigate, with the pressure on to get good grades, make friends, join clubs and teams, and build their resumes for high school, college and beyond. So while some have more easily settled in to their full post-pandemic routines, others are having a very difficult time “catching up.”
It doesn’t help that this generation has so much to process, both in school and online. Social media can do a number on their self-esteem, make them feel left out, and expose them to cyberbullying that’s even worse than in-person bullying, with bullies able to hide behind anonymity and avoid real-time social feedback or consequences.
Kids and teens alike are feeling overwhelmed and may act out accordingly at school. Younger children tend to show defiance and run out of class. Teens may have panic attacks or cope by using alcohol or drug, and vapes make it easier than ever to use while at school. The common denominator for all is difficulty managing emotions and strong urges to immediately dump trauma, lashing out at inappropriate times.
Even at home, you may see some significant personality changes in your child. They may become more sullen and withdrawn. Their grades or participation in classes and activities might slip, and they may have a very hard time (more than usual) getting out of bed. They might go to great lengths to hide their phones from you when you walk in the room.
The good news is that most kids—even if they can’t or won’t articulate this—know when they get out of control, and they also want to be happy. The experts at Rosecrance recommend a few things you can do at home. Put limitations on devices. You can even have a nightly family rule where all devices in the house go in the master bedroom at a certain time.
Baby steps are especially important during challenging moments. Rather than futilely forcing your child who’s struggling out of bed and straight to school, just get them to do the next step—get out of bed, get to the bathroom, change their clothes, and so on. Validate their feelings and connect with them. It’s how we manage feelings that matters most. Remember, parents are their kids’ first teachers.
And you can always reach out to others who can help—their friends, their friends’ parents, and the teachers and school clinicians that work with your child’s age group. When in doubt, as questions. You never know what you might learn.
If someone you know is—or has—a child struggling to get through the school year, check out series 3, episode 1 of the Rosecrance podcast “On Your Radar,” which covers what kids are going through as we return from the pandemic.
Download “Challenges in School,” episode 5, HERE.