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As students head back to the classroom, managing expectations and emotions are key

As students return to in-person learning, parents and educators face many unanswered questions. CPHHS researchers discussed the challenges students may face in a recent webcast.

By Alexis Croisdale

College of Public Health and Human Sciences faculty who study youth and families discussed some of the expectations, transitions and challenges of returning to in-person instruction, including mental and emotional health, childhood development, physical activity, and social and emotional outcomes in a recent Public Health Insider webcast. 

Megan McClelland, professor and director of the Hallie E. Ford Center for Healthy Children and Families, shared some of the social and emotional challenges children are experiencing, including increased stress and anxiety, lack of physical activity and accessibility, learning loss and heightened attention to social justice.  

“All of these issues are important to acknowledge up front because they are linked to how children engage in school and how they do academically in school,” she says. 

Assistant Professor of Practice and Parenting Education Specialist Shauna Tominey added that children’s signs of stress have increased in the past year. Stress showing up in children can include more tantrums and tears, clinginess or increased anxiety, difficulty sleeping, behavior changes, and heightened reactions. 

Children are missing opportunities to reduce stress through social connections,” she says. “Social relationships, positive relationships, and actually being with people we care about calm our stress.” 

Megan MacDonald, associate professor and OSU IMPACT for Life faculty scholar, says social interactions will be different for children as they return, but having an open conversation about it can help.  

“Social interactions will look different on account of physical separation, but it’s a great opportunity to remind our children and our students that we know how to do this safely now,” she says. “We know more about the virus at this point, we know how to put safety measures in place, and it’s important to reinforce that our kids know that as well.” 

All three researchers made it clear that these social and emotional challenges also exist for adults reentering social situations.  

“It’s harder to take care of our children if we’re not taking care of ourselves,” Megan MacDonald says. “We need to make sure that we’re reflecting, we’re debriefing, and we’re getting what we need so we can make sure that our loved ones have what they need.” 

Learn more by watching the recording above or on the CPHHS YouTube channel.  

The Public Health Insider webcast series is a joint initiative hosted by the OSU Alumni Association, OSU Foundation, OSU College of Public Health and Human Sciences, and OSU Center for Health Innovation. Future webcasts in this series include “Manage your growing everyday stress” on April 26, and “Healthy back home” on March 2. Register on the OSU Alumni Association website.