Going Back to School in a World of Uncertainty


Coping With Depression, Anxiety, and ADHD

Going back to school in a world of uncertainty can wreak havoc on kids and families. Children, adolescents, and family members may be at risk for anxiety and depression in the fluid and unstable environment of the pandemic. It is important that parents, teachers, pediatricians and nurses, and caregivers recognize the signs of depression and anxiety sooner rather than later. Doing so will allow adults to provide coping tools for children and family members, and proactive communication with schools for prevention measures.

Triggers for Anxiety and Depression:

We need to recognize the triggers for anxiety and depression to better understand why children and adults are at risk for mental health issues in today’s volatile and unpredictable climate of Covid-19. Some common triggers that have been identified include:

  • Social Isolation
  • Boredom
  • Loneliness
  • Lack of consistency
  • Lack of structure
  • Lack of stimulation and movement
  • Lack of certainty and plan

= Depression and Anxiety

In addition, two key needs for individuals who have ADHD are:

  • Novel, high intensity, exciting, and frequent stimulation
  • Frequent small and large movements
  • Neither of these factors are facilitated with online classes and work meetings
  • Kids and adults have significant difficulty in attending zoom and participating in online class/work or extracurricular activities

Markers for depression and anxiety to look out for:

  • Withdrawal
  • Sadness
  • Tearfulness
  • Refusal to engage or participate
  • Increase in irritability
  • Increase in temper tantrums and anger
  • Increase in poor emotional regulation
  • Poor or disrupted sleep
  • Increase in fatigue
  • Increase or loss of appetite
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Increase in nervousness
  • Increase in difficulty with transitions
  • Panic attacks
  • Physical/Somatic symptoms – headaches, tummy aches, varying body aches and pains.
  • Older kids and adults may start using alcohol and drugs to cope and self-stimulate

In addition, children and adults with ADHD may show:

  • Increase in inattention
  • Increase in difficulty with working memory
  • Increase in restlessness and fidgeting
  • Increase in hyperactivity
  • Increase in oppositionality and resistance
  • Increase in difficulty with transitions

The above symptoms can have a significant and detrimental impact on daily functioning, motivation, engagement, participation, and performance. If you see these warning signs, it is best to reach out to your school, your counselor, and your support team for early interventions.

Early intervention is prevention. Mental health professionals have identified several tools and tips to ward off the above triggers and markers in children and adults. They include:

  • Feelings Chart
  • Feelings Journal
  • Mindfulness
  • Movement and Exercise DAILY
  • Creativity – art, crafts, slime, baking, theatre, puppet play, music, dance
  • FUN – Daily
  • Camping and road trips
  • Backyard playdates and school/small HW pods
  • Peer support
  • Electronic Free Time Zones
  • HOPE

Collaboration with Schools and Teachers

The sooner you can alert your child’s teachers and share the struggles your child may be displaying the quicker the school can intervene and adapt to your child’s unique needs. School administrators, teachers, and support staff recognize the enormous strain children, adolescents, and families are experiencing as schools and work places offer a myriad of re-opening platforms, from on-line, hybrid, and in-person back to school/work models.

Masks, health checks, quarantines, and 6-feet apart lunches and school/work foster an alienation never experienced before. Hence, it is of no surprise that there has been a notable spike in the incidence of depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicide across communities. If you notice your child struggling, it is recommended that you should:

  • Share 504/IEP asap
  • If your child has not been assessed, and needs one, ask for one as soon as possible
  • Email your child’s IEP team member or head as soon as you see the gaps, unmet needs, or growing difficulties
  • Outline the specifics and ask for specific interventions and adaptations
  • Ask teachers to incorporate FUN and MOVEMENT based games in EVERY class to keep kids engaged
  • Volunteer

You can help teachers by providing them with fun slides and games for:

  • Guess that Image
  • Guess that Sound
  • Scavenger Hunts
  • Jokes
  • Exercise videos/competitions/prizes
  • Dance shows/competitions/prizes
  • Dress Up Day
  • Crazy Hair Day
  • Mindfulness Exercises
  • Be a part of the solution with positive appreciation of teachers, teams, and providers

Navigating a complicated, uncertain, and anxiety provoking world of going back to school in the midst of a pandemic can be overwhelming for many. Providing hope, creativity, fun, movement, and early interventions will serve your child, you, and your family well to prevent anxiety and depression.