Mental health experts worry re-entry delays taking a toll on kids

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GREENSBORO, N.C. — From returning to school to not returning to school, mental health experts are worried about the effects these inconsistencies have on our kids.

“It keeps on flip flopping and I don’t like it,” said sixth grader Berkley Willis.

“It’s really disappointing because I wanted to get back to somewhat normalcy,” eighth grader Allie Mahoney told FOX8.

“I honestly don’t know yet how we’re going to tell him,” said Kim Bartlett, a GCS parent and school counselor.

Dejected, disappointed and in disbelief as students and parents get their hopes up after several back and forth decisions by Triad school districts to return and then not return to school.

“I miss the socialization and seeing people face to face. That’s been really hard, not being able to have that,” Mahoney explained.

The inconsistencies, psychiatrist Dr. Jason Jones explains, are a taking a toll.

“Over the course of the last nine months, we’ve seen about a 50 percent increase in referral services. The stress on parents, the stress on families will trickle down to kids and so if the parents are stressed then the kids are going to feel it,” said Jones, who serves as medical director of the High Point Center for Child Wellness.

With ever-changing information on school re-entry plans, Jones advises parents to stay calm around their kids.

“Try to shield your children from your stress. Try to present as much as you can, try to present a front of confidence and security and predictability and try not to let them see how hard this is on you as well,” Jones said.

And plan how you’re going to break the news to them — like Bartlett, who has an 11-year-old son in the Guilford County School District.

“How do I tell him? How do I help him work through this and how do I make it OK in a situation where it’s really not OK?” Bartlett asked.

Bartlett, also a guidance counselor at Southern Guilford High School, has watched her son’s attitude toward remote learning change over the last 10 months and worries the constant dejection is affecting his motivation.

“We are slowly seeing that love of school and of education dripping out of him because he’s so frustrated with the process. That is the number one thing I hear from kids. Well, why did they say we can come back and now we can’t? I understand metrics change and I understand that we want kids to be safe. That is our number one goal,” Bartlett said.

As a school employee and parent, Bartlett tells FOX8 she wishes the district would make one decision and stick to it so that staff and families can plan accordingly.

“It stinks and I’m mad and I hate it but this is something that I can’t control so how can we make this work. I didn’t say make it OK, it’s not OK necessarily. How can I make this work for what we need to do,” Bartlett said.

Mahoney and Willis are looking to the bright side.

“I’m just hoping that we get to finish up the year a little bit, even a week would be nice to be able to go back,” Mahoney said.

“This virus is eventually going to be over and we’re all going to have vaccines eventually and once the school board or whoever’s making these decisions decides it’s safe for us to go, then we get to go back,” Willis said.

Jones urges families to not be afraid to seek help if they need it. The pandemic has put an incredible amount of stress on many parents and children.

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