Monitoring Your Child’s Behavioral Health During COVID-19

Dr. Christina Kennedy, Director , Hillside Atlanta

Courtesy of Dr. Christina Kennedy

With more and more students back to school and navigating classes online, Dr. Christina Kennedy says, any glitches that occur can, in some, lead to frustration, anxiety and possibly even depression.

Kennedy is the education director at Hillside Atlanta, a behavioral treatment center for children and families.

She says technical issues on the video conferencing platform Zoom Monday were probably nerve-racking on what was the first day of school for many students and educators.

Kennedy gave advice on how to keep students in a healthy mind space and on task while conquering the ins and outs of virtual learning.

She urged “brain breaks for the student. They need them. They also need movement. Let them stand, kneel, dance, whatever they need to do to stay focused. Also, healthy snacks. Give them healthy food to snack on, not junk food. We love sliced apples with peanut butter and/or honey. Make sure that they are getting enough sleep. Maintaining a schedule as if they were in live school is best. Between 8 and whenever is school time, no exceptions. It can’t be too loose or they won’t take it seriously.”

Kennedy added when students experience anxiety that may turn into depression.

“One of the biggest warning signs is the withdrawal. Seeing them kind of shut down, not being interested in things they were interested in before. Not wanting to do social things. Sleeping a lot. Spending way to much time on technology. Kind of withdrawing from society. I think that’s one of the things to look for.  And just the general sadness. You can tell there’s just an era of sadness when kids start going down that hole.”

When should a parent ask for help and therapy for their child?

Kennedy said, “Having someone outside to talk about your feelings and your anxiety and everything you are going through, is an important outlet for all of us. Reach out to and find someone to talk to.”

Kennedy said, it’s OK if there are a few glitches along the way, being safe and being with your family is the most important.

She added, “Many of us are feeling stressed and overwhelmed with the rapidly changing factors of going back to school. Join the Hillside Atlanta Foundation for a conversation about Mental Health and how you can better navigate going back to school. We will discuss best practices for virtual learning, how to start conversations about mental health, and how to develop healthy coping skills for stress.”