PSYCHOLOGIST JANINE HUBBARD ON SUPPORTING KIDS (AND PARENTS) AS THEY HEAD BACK TO SCHOOL
Best Health|August/September 2021
This September, as we cautiously ease out of a year-and-a-half-long pandemic, we’re heading back into a school year that’s unlike any other. School has changed. We’ve changed too.
HANNAH SUNG

Getting here wasn’t easy. Research from Public Health Ontario found that during the first lockdown, half of caregivers surveyed reported moderate to high levels of concern about overseeing their children’s remote learning and screen time, and managing their child’s anxiety and stress. And a SickKids survey of families taken during that lockdown found that parents had cause for concern: 66 percent of preschool children aged 2 to 5 years old and 70 percent of children aged 6 to 18 reported deterioration in their mental health, including depression, anxiety and irritability.

It’s worth noting that this wasn’t the case for all kids: A smaller group, 30 percent of preschoolers and 20 percent of school-aged children, actually reported improvement in at least one factor for mental health. It always comes down to the individual. And no one knows that better that Dr. Janine Hubbard, a St. John’s, N.L., psychologist who specializes in working with youth and adolescents.

Hubbard says she saw the “video gamers,” those who were used to socializing at home and online, fare well because their socialization was already online. However, she noticed that children with pre-existing issues, especially anxiety and depression, became higher risk for mental health factors like depression and anxiety due to social isolation.

In the Before Times, back to school was the busiest time of year for Hubbard, when she would be booked solid, providing therapy to children and teens, most of them dealing with anxiety. This year, she is concerned with how kids will readjust to the learning, social, behavioural and emotional demands of the school year, especially given the recent surge in eating disorders, suicide ideation and depression.

I spoke with Hubbard for some much-needed insight (and, let’s face it, reassurance) on how to prep for a return to school this fall.

I have kids of my own, and thinking about September, I’m wondering how can we, as parents, support everyone heading back to school?

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