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Tips for Meeting Kids' Social, Emotional Needs This Fall

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Thursday, August 19, 2021   

RALEIGH, N.C. -- The school year is fast approaching, and many North Carolina students will be headed back to the classroom for the first time in a while, prompting reminders about ensuring they're handling the transition.

Whether it was all distance learning or a hybrid situation, students are returning after a year with plenty of isolation.

Brittany Norman, school counselor and president of the North Carolina School Counselor Association, said it is important for parents and teachers to focus on relationship-building with students to make sure they can address any needs that come up.

"It's really going to be about communication, being intentional about carving out that time to really check in with our students to see how they're doing," Norman explained. "To get them to get to know them a little bit better, only because we've been so disconnected in a multitude of ways."

She recommended open-ended questions when talking to kids, so they can bring up anything they may be feeling. She likes to ask her own nephew about his high and low pointed of the day. Norman pointed out school counselors are trained to help meet the social and emotional needs of students, and can also connect them with outside resources.

Dr. Rhonda Randall, chief medical officer for UnitedHealthcare Employer and Individual, said parents should check in regularly with kids, listening and watching for even subtle changes in their mood or behavior.

She advised it is important to support and validate kids' feelings if they're anxious or upset.

"One of the things that we talk about is sharing that we go through it as adults, too, and how we deal with stress," Randall noted. "The older you get, the more practice and experience you have dealing with that. So letting your kids know that it's something that all humans experience, even their parents."

Randall emphasized families should help children be prepared to be flexible about school disruptions, with COVID-19 variants still a concern. She added signs kids may need some additional social and emotional assistance can be subtle, from changes in mood or sleep patterns to changes in their academic performance.

Disclosure: United Healthcare contributes to our fund for reporting on Health Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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