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Why in-person learning is vital for children’s health


In partnership with Fox45

August 30, 2021
A new school year is starting, and the uncertainty that accompanied 2020 continues. Anthony Chico, DO, Medical Director of Emergency Psychiatry at GBMC HealthCare, says while the transition from virtual to in-person learning might not be easy for everyone, it is vitally important for children.

“As we leave the digital world and return to the in-person world, the first few weeks can be anxiety provoking. It’s okay for parents to share with kids that it might be a little awkward at first and it might take some time to get back into it,” Dr. Chico says.

Parents should speak to their kids in a way that makes them feel empowered about going back to school, not afraid.

“It’s important for parents to maintain a positive tone and a hopeful stance about the school experience,” Dr. Chico says. “Negativity is infectious and can take away your children’s enthusiasm about their return to school.”

While some children welcomed the chance to stay home and take part in virtual learning last year, kids who value group activities and socialization struggled during lockdown.

“We were seeing a lot of kids, who, for the first time in their life, were feeling lost,” Dr. Chico says. “Kids found themselves struggling in parts of their lives they had previously viewed as strengths – straight A students were now failing, athletes no longer had teammates they saw on a regular basis. A lot of the things they identified with were gone.”

Despite the number of kids who struggled or felt lost throughout the pandemic, Dr. Chico is confident the return of regular activities and group socialization will lessen any lasting effects from the pandemic on school-aged children.

“Kids are a very resilient group of people,” he says. “If given guidance and support, they tend to bounce back very quickly.”

To minimize the stress around returning to school and the rise of COVID-19 cases because of the Delta variant, Dr. Chico recommends creating a routine and sticking with it as best you can.

“Predictability helps both kids and adults feel more in control in an unpredictable world,” he says.

For parents concerned with the potential health risks of sending kids back to school, he recommends talking with a family care physician. He also reiterates the importance of being vaccinated for COVID-19 and staying diligent to protect ourselves and our communities from spreading the virus. Following health regulations and not allowing frustrations to overtake common sense is the best thing for children to be able to return to in-person learning.

“The cost of yet another year of being isolated and not being challenged academically or socially is a very high cost to pay,” Dr. Chico says. “If your child is in good health and your physician agrees, I would strongly recommend your child be in person and have a richer in school experience.”

Stay up to date with the latest information and recommendations as GBMC continues to monitor the COVID-19 situation.
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