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Special Education Expert Offers Tips to Reduce Student Anxiety as Kids Return to School Amid COVID-19

NHA Communications Team  |  September 17, 2020
Jessica Meldrum
(616) 929-1394
                                                            Sept. 17, 2020

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., Sept. 17, 2020 — Students at one National Heritage Academies (NHA) school are feeling meditative benefits after exploring a social-emotional learning website that provides key resources for parents and students as they continue adapting to learning during COVID-19. Meditation and mindfulness resources are embedded on the site for students to access whenever they need it. This is just one tool educators are using as the pandemic continues.
As time progresses, many are feeling increased anxiety due to a combination of heightened safety protocols, focused attention on the coronavirus, and extended periods of isolation in quarantine. NHA’s Director of Special Education, Rukshana Illahi, offers advice to manage anxiety as students return to school.
“Anxiety comes from a place of not knowing,” said Illahi. “We all are experiencing this right now. We don’t know what’s going to come next or how this is going to play out. As the pandemic stretches on, we’ve seen a reduction in anxiety but as kids go back to school anxiety has increased.”
There are a variety of signs that parents and educators should watch out for to recognize a change in children's behavior. “Any change in behavior is a warning sign,” said llahi. “Being aware and in tune with your child is vital. When your child isn’t interested in the same activities that they used to be or their friendships begin to look different, that’s a red flag.”
Illahi suggests parents and guardians monitor their child’s mental health needs and provide support if they notice behaviors such as:
  • Being more withdrawn than usual
  • Eating or sleeping too much or too little
  • Having a low or irritable mood most days
  • Having no interest in activities they typically enjoy

She also recommends that educators and parents focus on helping kids prepare by setting expectations and adding structure to their daily routines. By helping kids see what may come next, the added insecurities of the unknown decrease. Additionally, leading kids to identify positives in their situation helps them re-frame their minds by focusing less on negatives or what they may be missing.

About National Heritage Academies:

National Heritage Academies is a network of 89 tuition-free, public charter schools across nine states, serving more than 60,000 students in kindergarten through eighth grade. For more information, visit