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Helping children transition to getting back in the classroom: Mom Minute Monday

The pandemic has highlighted an increase in mental health struggles for adolescents. We talked to a local expert about guiding kids through yet another transition.

CLEVELAND — We know this past year and the global COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on our kids. Events have been canceled, participation in sports has changed drastically and in some cases, learning has gone back and forth between in-person and virtual learning.

Nationwide, numbers show more kids are being seen by doctors for anxiety and depression, particularly teens. Pediatricians and mental health professionals agree that getting kids back in the classroom is important for overall education and development, but we also know that getting back to school isn't going to magically fix everything.

This Mom Minute Monday, 3News talked to pediatric psychologist Marilyn Sampilo with Cleveland Clinic Children’s about the things parents can do to help ease yet another transition.

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"There's a big social component to school. Even though we're there for the academics, you know, in between classes seeing your friends, there's nothing that quite replicates that. And so having a little bit more of that integrated into the days is really going to be a good thing."

But Dr. Sampilo points out that it's also another change, which means it will take kids time to adjust. There are things parents can do to help make the process easier.

"I think one of the first things is making sure that parents just have open lines of communication with their children. Really being not afraid to even just say, 'Hey, how are you feeling about going back to school?' And really opening up that line of communication. 'Are there things that you're worried about? What are some of the things that maybe are stressing you out about this change?'"

The doctor says these types of questions are important, but you can also look toward their positive feelings as well. 

"Talk about some of the things that they're really excited about in terms of going back to school."

Another positive of returning to in-person learning is having that "first line of defense," of teachers and guidance counselors.

"They're also going to be going back into school, which we think of like as a safety net program, in the sense of teachers really are one of the first line of defense in terms of recognizing any signs or symptoms or problems that kids or teenagers are experiencing," says Dr. Sampilo.

Another concern she says she's hearing is about safety protocols.

Dr. Sampilo stresses that students should "control what they can control." That means continue to mask up, stay physically distanced and trust the school system and the guidelines they have in place to keep everyone safe.