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Psychologists Look To Ease Parent, Student School Fears In Mental Health Panel

Behavioral Health Associates of Broward the Counseling Centers of Goodman Jewish Family Services, along with Nova Southeastern University, hosted a webinar Monday night about the psychological toll of the pandemic when it comes to going back to school.

Teachers, parents and kids going back to school don't have their usual routines this year.

Students in Broward County begin the new year with e-learning online on Wednesday.

To help ease some of the anxiety and stress that the pandemic brings, psychologists in Broward County got together for a panel discussion Monday night all about back-to-school nerves.

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The pandemic has taken an emotional, educational and psychological toll on many parents and school-aged kids. That stress can manifest in different ways depending on age, according to mental health experts.

"Remember that human beings are resilient,” Dr. Jessica J. Ruiz said. She is the chief psychologist and director for Behavioral Health Associates of Broward (BHAB), the Counseling Centers of Goodman Jewish Family Services.

During the panel, which BHAB hosted in conjunction with Nova Southeastern University, Ruiz said teens and young adults are balancing a lot right now, particularly when social distancing conflicts with feeling more socially isolated. Parents can help guide them to make their own choices.

"We help our children build resilience during times of adversity by helping them build some skills: How we can learn to problem solve, how we can manage our emotions, how we can learn to relax our bodies…" Ruiz said.

When it comes to balancing the well being of younger children, Dr. Kasi Patterson, also a clinical psychologist at BHAB, said that parents have been faced with making unfamiliar decisions based on their individual circumstances.

“Because of the COVID-19 pandemic the way school appears with regard to class size, setting, daily schedules … Families have had to consider the risks and benefit associated with those different formats, and then make the best decision for them at this time,” he said.

Opportunities for social interaction for kids, access to school and social services play a role in a parents’ choices when it comes to school and daycare, Patterson said.

During the webinar, parents and teachers sent in their questions — whether it was about their children’s' anxiety, or their own. Ruiz advised adults when talking to each other to be hopeful:

"Number one is don't panic,” she said. “Focus on some of the positive and be able to share that in your conversations with others so that we can start to shift.”

Caitie Muñoz, formerly Switalski, leads the WLRN Newsroom as Director of Daily News & Original Live Programming. Previously she reported on news and stories concerning quality of life in Broward County and its municipalities for WLRN News.
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