Summer programs help kids cope with mental health challenges

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There is no air conditioning inside the classroom where Kate Martin and Tafadzwa Musekiwa teach. The building was not intended for use in mid-July. But these two guidance counselors are committed to helping children who have struggled to rehabilitate as the country emerges from COVID-19.

Martin and Musekiwa are both counselors at Londonderry High School in New Hampshire. Even though the classes here were taught weeks ago, these two guidance counselors teach around 18 students each morning. It is not a summer school but rather a summer camp.

This school district and others across the country are running summer programs to help children who have struggled to come out of the pandemic.

“I think a lot of our kids feel a loss of control and they don’t know what’s going on, what’s going on around them,” Martin said sitting in one of the school classrooms.

Making friends is one of the most important things they work on here. Parents and teachers across the country are realizing that children struggle with a lot of anxiety, especially when it comes to relationships due to the loss of social time during the pandemic.

“A lot of our kids were like, ‘I just don’t know how to make friends anymore,’” Martin added.

Sometimes finding solutions is as easy as having students write down ideas to help them take care of themselves.

“We talk about friendships, boundaries. Sometimes we talk about meditation, self-care, even yoga. In search of skills they might not have learned in the past 14 months,” said added Musekiwa.

School districts across the country are running similar programs, and for good reason. According to the Keizer Family Foundation, parents of children between the ages of 5 and 12 reported seeing their children with high symptoms of depression linked to the pandemic.

Dr. Eileen Kennedy-Moore is a clinical psychologist. Although many children ended up in classrooms at the end of the school year, she found persistent mental health issues.

“The tension, strangeness, uncertainty and isolation have taken their toll on children and families,” added Dr. Kennedy-Moore.

Just like what the Londonderry High School summer program is trying to accomplish, there is one thing she says parents should be focusing on this summer.

“If you want to know what’s most important in getting your child back to school, help him make friends.”


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