Back to School & the Stressors of a New Normal

Melissa Fox, MHA, FACMPE,  FACHE

Millions of children are headed back to school now and in the coming weeks, and they will be entering an environment that looks quite different from a couple of years ago. The COVID-19 pandemic will make its mark on yet another school year, and many factors – including some uncertainty, contribute to educators and families needing to adjust to stressors resulting from the “new normal”.

As community care providers, our role is an interesting one in that we have the opportunity to not only address the issues which currently exist, but we can also position ourselves to proactively help support families and educators as they navigate this new school year.

A few of the most obvious concerns are:

Dealing with loss from the pandemic

For many families, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in significant losses.. Families have been impacted by illness, death, economic insecurity and even uncertainty about the future. Individuals who weren’t able to interact with friends and family members due to social distancing guidelines may have had to deal with the loss of human connection. Grief, depression, and anxiety have also taken a toll. As students, parents and educators are heading into the school year, they are all potentially addressing their own levels of loss related to the pandemic.

General uncertainty related to health concerns

The COVID-19 delta variant appears to be more infectious and contagious than earlier strains according to recent data. Greater potential for spread means more people are testing positive, and also rapidly increases the number of people being hospitalized, including children. Childhood COVID-19 hospitalizations are on the rise in the US. Concerns related to how this potential issue should be addressed can contribute to higher levels of anxiety and stress in local communities.

Stress related to change

In addition to the direct physical impacts of COVID-19, educators have also had to cope with psychological stress related to the changes in their work environment. From transitioning from a fully remote learning environment to adjusting to a partially remote educational setting, educators have had to adapt to a myriad of changes while navigating their own personal stressors related to COVID-19.

As community providers, many of you may already be working closely with the school districts you serve as well as the local families in providing access to key supports which can help them through this complex time. This school year offers a new opportunity to create innovative care delivery systems which are flexible and unique to the communities being served.

Some interesting care innovations across the country include:

Acenda is committed to working closely with families and school districts in the counties we serve to continue to identify ways that we can help to reduce new school year stressors. Though the needs are more complex than ever due to COVID-19, times like these create great opportunities for care innovations. Lets seize the opportunity.

Read more population health articles on the AIHI Blog