Distance Learning and Anxiety Don’t Have To Go Together Share +

Posted by: coronadosafe 1 month, 3 weeks ago

“How’s school going?” her grandma asked over the phone. “It was alright,” Emma said shruggingly. “C’mon, you gotta tell me more than that!” Her grandma pressed.  Emma paused, “I don’t know. I love my classes and teachers but I just can’t focus. It’s draining.” Her grandma tried to empathize, “Yeah, getting back to school is always tough!”  “I don’t know. It’s more than that. It’s like I’m tired, but no matter what I can’t fall asleep at night. It’s like all I can think about is all the schoolwork I need to get done, but when I start doing it, I feel overwhelmed and it’s hard for me to finish.”

“Emma” may sound like a student you know in Coronado right now. With distance learning continuing into the fall, we may notice the impact it is having on our youth; especially when it comes to anxiety. During this particularly difficult back-to-school season, a local nonprofit, Coronado SAFE, is empowering parents and children to start the year off strong.

Recognizing the Signs

“It's a normal part of life to experience occasional—or, in these times, perhaps ongoing—anxiety,” said Gia Del George, LCSW, Director of Programs and Clinical Counseling at SAFE. “Addressing it before it becomes overwhelming or uncontrollable is the difference maker in being your best and healthiest self.”

For youth, the warning signs of anxiety can look like constantly feeling worried or behavioral symptoms like restlessness, difficulty breathing, changes in sleep, or changes in appetite. Parents are tasked with keeping a watchful eye on both themselves and their children.

Knowing these symptoms are critical, as often times, anxiety and depression are co-occurring. Their common denominator is a struggle with negative affect which can look like: having low self-esteem, negative self talk, or very concerning, thoughts of wanting to hurt one self. Not only is shining light on the link between anxiety and depression important as September is National Suicide Prevention Month, it also empowers parents to identify when additional support for their child may be needed. In October, Coronado SAFE and Live Well San Diego recognize National Depression Screening Day with a Check Your Mood event, so stay tuned for next month’s article to learn more!

Talking Online (and Offline)

SAFE is also equipping Coronado families with the tools and resources to navigate the ever-changing landscape of parenting during the pandemic. Parents can attend a September 14 Coffee Talk via Zoom conference from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. with guest speaker, Tana Luo, PhD, who will explain ways to recognize anxiety in children, share practical coping strategies and discuss COVID-19-specific issues. There will be an interactive Q&A at the end of the session.

In addition to coffee talks, SAFE is organizing small groups for parents to communicate and collaborate on their own self-care strategies.

“This remote back-to-school season is really about empowering parents so they can in turn empower their children,” Del George said. “Whether you take comfort in a large support group or prefer to converse with just a few other parents, SAFE has flexible options to meet your individual needs that speak to the current anxieties at hand.”

SAFE’s Aloha Club is also delivering—from a safe distance—baskets of goodies to families that are new to Coronado. At a time when human connection is lacking, the Aloha Club is bringing together the community to alleviate the stress of a new setting for countless families, including many military families.

Teaching the Intangibles

In spring, SAFE announced a partnership with the Coronado Public Library to make counseling materials available for curbside checkout. SAFE’s Turtle Time program for children ages 4 to 7 brings an interactive book of activities into the home for parents to teach positive emotional expression, decrease aggressive behavior and enhance academic function. such as low impulse control, fidgeting, which can be signed for anxiety)Turtle Time is already a huge success as more than 500 preschool and kindergarten students have participated since the program launched.

Anxiety for young children can look like fidgeting or challenges with impulse control. “Turtle Time skills not only help with managing immediate anxiety but also follow children throughout their lives so they’re better equipped to handle their emotions and navigate daily challenges,” Del George said. “The partnership with the library has been fantastic and we can’t thank them enough.”

Transforming Youth and Families

While the pandemic continues to upset people and uproot routines, it is also a time to promote wellness, relationships, self-care and communication.

“Transformation begins from within, which is why we work hard to empower youth and families to create change in themselves,” Georgia Chakos Ferrell, Executive Director of SAFE said. “As distance learning continues, so do SAFE’s programs, workshops, services, staff and volunteers.”