Managing Stress and Health During Back-to-School Time


Parents in North Carolina are just starting to find out what plans will be for their school district this year and are wondering how they can prepare for it. Whether your school will be implementing virtual learning, in-person learning, or a blend of the two, the health experts at LeBauer HealthCare and Cone Health have some practical guidance for parents as they navigate this new territory.

Watch the recent WFMY News 2 interview with LeBauer clinical psychologist David Gutterman, PhD., and Cone Health infectious disease specialist Cynthia Snider, MD. You can also explore their tips below to help prepare your family for back to school during COVID-19.

Virtual Learning or a Return to School?

Many parents are wondering if it’s safe to send their child to school. And many health experts are urging parents to remember their child’s overall health needs – not just coronavirus safety. Dr. Snider emphasizes that vaccinations for children are critically important, whether your child will be learning at home or back in school.

The recent lockdown and initial stages of the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. have created a serious disruption in the normal vaccine series for many children. If that trend continues, it could create even more widespread and avoidable health risks in addition to the coronavirus pandemic.

These are some baseline recommendations you should follow regardless of whether schools physically reopen in our area this fall:

  • Keep up with check-ins with your child’s pediatrician.
  • Prioritize normal vaccinations for things like measles, mumps, and rubella.
  • Get flu vaccinations.
  • Maintain a healthy diet and exercise routines for everyone in your family.

Learn more about the importance of keeping up with your child’s vaccine schedule in our latest blog with Dr. Cody Matthews of LeBauer HealthCare at Grandover Village.

How Can You Support Your Child’s Mental Health?

Debates, tensions, and feelings often have an unusually high intensity right now. It’s critical that you talk with your children about what they are thinking and feeling during this time. However, Dr. Gutterman wants to emphasize how important it is for parents to be aware of their own feelings before jumping into a conversation with their children about how they are doing.

“So if you’re going back into the school setting, first and foremost, talk to your children, regardless of their age, about their feelings about it first, before you impose your own feelings. Do a gut check about how you are feeling about it, because kids can pick up on our own feelings, and it’s important to try to maintain a sense of calm regardless of how anxious you might be about it,” says Dr. Gutterman.

Every child, even within the same family, will have their own response to everything that has happened recently. It’s important to connect with each child to gauge their excitement, anxiety, and other strong feelings about starting school again. Significant levels of stress in your child is one of the most important things you should be aware of as a parent. It may not be immediately clear exactly what is causing the heightened stress, but the effects, if left unaddressed, can be serious.


Other Common Questions and Tips for Parents

Are COVID-19 health risks for younger children and teens different?
Dr. Snider says, “Some teenagers’ [symptoms] probably are closer to what you would see in adults. However, in general, there’s still so much to be learned about pediatric COVID-19. I think the key thing though for the fall, to keep your classroom and your community healthy is that if your kids are sick, definitely keep them out of school and figure out how to assess them.

Will teaching my children to be safe by wearing masks and social distancing, etc. instill fear in them? How do we teach them to be cautious without making them anxious and afraid?
We know that both children and adults adjust to new things better when they understand them. Explaining to your children why people are wearing masks and standing far apart will help them. Any fears they already have may likely be worse than the reality,” says Dr. Gutterman.

“It’s also a good idea – especially with younger children – to ask them first what their understanding is about why people are wearing masks and standing far apart. Knowing what they think and understand will dictate how you explain things to them.

“At this point, children have been seeing more people wearing masks both outside the home and on television,” says Dr. Gutterman. “While younger children may have a harder time understanding the concept of a virus you can’t see, most of them do understand catching a cold and getting sick. They can understand the concept that masks help keep us healthy.

How can you balance life, work, and school if everyone is at home?
According to Dr. Gutterman, if your children are learning at home, try to structure the day similar to the one you might have in a school setting.

Talk with your children, let them be a part of setting up the day,” says Dr. Gutterman. “Make sure that you set up certain subjects during certain times of the day, and that as a parent or parents – if you are working from home – you take breaks at certain times during the day when kids might need help with particular types of subjects. You want to make sure you have a break too…If you’re fortunate to have a two parent household where both are at home, you can tag-team with each other, and should do that throughout the day.

Need Tips for Returning to College During COVID-19?

Watch this WFMY News 2 interview with Dr. Gutterman and Dr. Snider for tips for college students and parents.

Our Health Team is Here to Help

You probably have more questions around these issues, and we want you to know that the team at LeBauer HealthCare is here for your family. We offer behavioral health services (counseling) for children ages 3 and up, and our primary care for families is open to patients of all ages at eight locations in the Triad area.

Learn more about our behavioral medicine team of counselors and our primary care team.

If you’re looking for a new doctor, use this easy online form to request an appointment for you or your child today.

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