Updated: Nov 6, 2022
Anxiety is going with them. Looking back on my first days of school as a child, I remember feeling excited. Excited to show off my brand new back-to-school shoes and clothes, and to use all my new school supplies that I carefully picked out, and of course energized to see friends and classmates that I hadn’t seen all summer. For students today, those feelings have been pushed aside and replaced with anxiety, fear, and for some, even OCD and depression.
Obsessive compulsive disorder and depression can be triggered in students who are predisposed to the disorders. Genetics, family history, and environmental factors such as experiencing stressful or traumatic events can all lead to OCD behaviors and depression. Covid has certainly been stressful and traumatic for many students, especially those who have had a family member pass away as a result of the virus. Coming back to school after living in fear and experiencing loss has diminished mental health.
We are also seeing anxiety in students who excelled in school when they were learning from home. Social anxiety in the classroom that may have caused poor performance disappeared for many students while we were all learning and working from home. Some students thrived when it came to online learning because they were distanced from the social pressures and stress that comes from being at school. High school students had an escape from the stereotypical cliques and experiences. Coming back into the classroom now after semesters of doing well has brought fear of falling behind again. And of course, separation anxiety from the comforts of being home, safe with family has made an appearance as well, especially in younger children.
So, what can teachers and parents do to help students feel more comfortable, safe, and focused on mental wellness, instead of fear?
Allow for flexibility.
Encourage a growth mindset.
Address the fears and new stresses students are experiencing and don’t shy away from tough discussions around mental health and illness.
Lead with compassion and empathy first and create a safe space for students to acclimate back into the classroom.
Acknowledge that mental health is more important than academic performance.
Of course, we know there is a correlation between increased mental health and increased performance, so prioritizing mental health and wellness will likely end in better academic performance. As parents and teachers, we can help students bring resiliency back with them into the classroom, and wherever they go.
What causes obsessive compulsive disorder (ocd)? Beyond OCD. (2018, March 30). https://beyondocd.org/ocd-facts/what-causes-ocd.