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‘Anxiety and fear is normal’: El Paso psychologist offers tips for parents as children head back to campus

EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) -- As more students return to classrooms after months of remote learning, some might be facing new anxieties about being back on campus. It's been nearly a year since many students were physically back on campus and learning through screens has become the norm.

A local psychologist said it's normal for students to feel afraid or anxious about the transition, and she said there are ways for parents to help.

"I think a little bit of anxiety and fear is normal and that's okay," said Dr. Melanie Longhurst with Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso. "Remain calm, explain what we know with transparency and at a developmentally appropriate level. Let them know what they can expect. Let them know what may be different and then establish some kind of routine."

Dr. Longhurst said parents should do research or contact school officials to find out what the school day will look like during the pandemic. She said walking children through the school day can help them feel better prepared ahead of returning to campus.

She also recommended that parents take the time to explain the reason behind various safety measures to help children feel more in control of their ability to prevent virus spread. These can include explaining why students should not remove their mask or share snacks with friends. Dr. Longhurst said parents can start implementing some of those safety measures at home before sending students back to campus, like wearing a mask, to help establish the new routine.

Parents should also focus on conveying a sense of calm. Dr. Longhurst said children often pick up on worries from other family members. Most importantly, she said parents should listen to how their children are feeling.

"I think communication, transparency, establishing your routine, answering their questions, and then, you know, just revamping as you go," she said. "If things aren't working, talk to them. Talk to them at the end of the day, 'how did it go?' 'What were worries that you had?' and try to see what maybe you can change."

Dr. Longhurst suggested using breathing or mindfulness exercises too, and pointed to mobile applications like 'Stop, Breathe & Think' which offer free meditations for children.

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Madeline Ottilie

Madeline Ottilie is a reporter on Good Morning El Paso and co-anchors ABC-7 at noon.

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