Key Takeaways for Your Kids Returning to School

Aug. 16 2021

The pandemic has had a significant impact on students’ mental health. According to Tulane University’s Health Department, many students are experiencing social isolation and significant effects on their daily routines, which may cause emotional distress, anxiety and depression.

Social workers in schools are in place to help students manage stress levels by being present and proactive. These workers tend to students and help them thrive with available resources. In addition, school-based mental health professionals provide daily mental health check-ins by reviewing coping skills that can positively impact students’ social, emotional and academic well-being.

Maria Southall-Mack, a social worker at Merrydale Elementary School, encourages parents to provide a safe space for children to express their feelings.

“Children who were at a higher risk for ACES (adverse childhood experiences) before the pandemic seem to have more difficulty coping with daily stressors, which may lead to the need for crisis intervention,” she said. “Children must identify and utilize resources that nurture their mental health — even if it’s a listening ear.”

She states that children should identify the adults in place to help them while away from home.

“They are safe, trusted helpers,” Southall-Mack said. “Family sessions are always a good start. Doing so will help the professional establish trust and build a positive relationship with your child.”

Southall-Mack said that students should know the tips and tools for daily stressors as a resource for reinforcement. In addition, the social worker gave takeaways that will help students’ mental health this school year:

  1. Get moving! Try to do at least 30 minutes of exercise a day. Exercise is a natural body booster.
  2. Remember to eat healthy meals to support the brain and body.
  3. Practice mindfulness and take brain breaks when needed.
  4. Take deep breathing exercises to calm the brain and body.
  5. Use positive self-talk and daily affirmations (for example, “I am smart, brave, I can do challenging things. Challenges help me grow”).
  6. Talk to someone; find trusted adults to discuss your feelings.”


Southall-Mack added helpful tactics that parents can use at home:

  1. Actively listen to your child and validate their feelings.
  2. Model healthy behavior in the house by being honest and responsive.
  3. Have scheduled family time that is engaging (board games, painting, outdoor exercise/play, read together).
  4. Practice coping skills for daily stressors, such as taking deep breaths when feeling anxious or upset).
  5.  Most importantly: BE PRESENT and tell them you love them.


Southall-Mack advises parents to seek a professional for overall health services for themselves.

“Be active and involved in every aspect of their child’s schooling,” she said.

For more information or assistance, reach out to these resources: for family fun at home or on the go

  • for parents, kids, teens and educators
  • Capital Area )225)922-0631
  • COPE Team at Our Lady of the Lake (225) 756-8900
  • Food, Housing, employment, counseling and more,  dial 211
  • 911 for emergencies


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