Local psychologist discusses mental health as parents decide on upcoming school year plans

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) – As local school districts begin releasing back-to-school plans, parents may be anxious as they try to decide what they want for their kids. Parents might be grieving the loss of experiences their kids would’ve had without the pandemic.

Local psychologist, Dr. Jennifer Baker, says that kids who go through challenging situations can do better in adulthood.

“They don’t expect life to just treat them fairly all the time,“ she said. ”We might say, ‘hey, my kid’s losing a whole year of their childhood’ or we might say, ‘my child is having an experience in their childhood that will prepare them to deal with tough times as an adult.‘”

Parents may be struggling to decide between sending their kids to school or keeping them at home. Dr. Baker says no matter what parents choose, there’s no bad decision.

”You’re doing the best you can, and that’s going to be good enough,” she said. “There’s no way you can know every single potential outcome. You just have to choose the best thing you can with the knowledge you have today.”

Making that decision can be stressful and if you’re feeling anxious, it’s possible your kids will too. Baker says kids will adapt to their new normal based on how their parents handle it.

”If you’re feeling anxious, upset, angry, irritable, fearful, you’re not able to sleep, you’re constantly feeling unrest, you need to talk to someone because if you calm down, your children will do much better,” she said.

Instead of thinking about the situation negatively, she recommends viewing it as an experience your children will grow from and prepare them for future obstacles. During this stressful time, having a support system is the most important thing.

”The people who do the best in stressful situations, and we all encounter them, but there still are people who do much better. People who have what we call a safety net,” Baker said.

If you don’t have a support system, she recommends trying to find one sooner rather than later. Self-care is also extremely important. If you take care of yourself, you will have a clearer head to also take care of your kids. Change is difficult but can push people to experience things that can be good for them in the long run.

”It can make us more compassionate,” she said. “It can make us more patient. It can help us find things that we’re interested in that we weren’t interested in before.”

Baker also suggests that if you continue to feel anxious or stressed, you should see a professional who can offer coping mechanisms and techniques to handle that anxiety.

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