Home Lifestyle Health Crystal Mullen Johnson: Back to School: The Mental Health Impact of COVID-19

Crystal Mullen Johnson: Back to School: The Mental Health Impact of COVID-19

By Crystal Mullen-Johnson

The hustle and bustle to prepare for school is overshadowed with fear and uncertainty.  We are counting down for kids to return back to school, but many are not prepared. While our plans are uncertain, our kids expect for their lives to return back to normal. 

Starting school during a pandemic impacts our children’s mental health and threatens their physical safety. The school calendar has not changed, but the way our kids will attend school will be drastically different.

School was a safe haven for some kids and a hub for them to learn and connect socially with their peers. Socialization is an integral part of a child’s well-being.

Kids learn through natural progression as to how to relate to themselves and others in social settings. School is a structured environment that provides consistency and academic enrichment.

As parents decide on the best learning option for their children, they are stressed about providing structure at home, meeting their kids’ emotional and social needs and ensuring that their kids do not fall behind academically.

Unfortunately, some kids will not have reminders from the sound of a bell to transition to their classes and they will lose exchanging high fives, laughter, hugs with their peers in passing and lunch time, which was an opportunity to chat and have fun. Younger kids lose their playground outdoor activity which is critically important to their physical and social skills developmental stages.

As we embark on a new experience, it is important to acknowledge the challenges of change we face and to have open conversations that are age appropriate with our children. Parents should not project their anxiety and fears onto their children. Stay connected with your kid’s school district to learn more about various options that will formulate a plan to meet the needs of your family in promotion of continued learning, self-care and social engagement.

Pay attention to your kid’s emotional and behavioral changes. Ask your children questions if you become concerned.  The loss of their routine of life can cause grief and anxiety. Kids are resilient; however, change can create a loss of security. There is not a perfect answer to prepare for the school year, however pay attention to your kid’s mental health and behavioral responses.

As a parent, listen to your children express their emotions, encourage physical activity, spend quality time with your children and provide a safe loving environment for them. 


Crystal Mullen-Johnson is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and a Registered Play Therapist in Birmingham with more than 16 years of experience in providing counseling. Strive Counseling Services is a private practice located in downtown Birmingham. Contact us at (205) 721-9893 to inquire about Telehealth Services or visit Strive Counseling Services—http://www.strivebhm.com