NORFOLK, Va. – In just a few days, grade school students across Hampton Roads will be logging on for an unprecedented, virtual school year. It’s sure to bring an unusual amount of mental health challenges as parents, students and teachers try to balance this new normal.
“If people feel unsure of what to do, if they feel frustrated, if they feel anxious, that they feel worried, fearful, shameful, guilty, depressed, it's normal,” explained local psychologist Dr. Barbara Ford Shabazz. “We're all experiencing a loss right now. We've lost lives, jobs, milestone events and the ability to live as we typically know life to be.”
Dr. Shabazz said there are ways parents can help create an environment to benefit mental health during the virtual school year.
“Have designated work areas,” she explained. “Some people just have a corner and that's okay. Just have a dedicated area. Have a time where you turn it on and you turn it off so you can have that work life balance.”
Dr. Shabazz also encourages parents to create a schedule, and include routine exercise.
“We need exercise. We need water. We need a sunlight,” she said. “You don't have to pay for a gym membership to go take a walk around the neighborhood.”
Dr. Shabazz said if the moods, emotions and behaviors stemming from the stress of an unusual school year are getting in the way of someone functioning like they normally would, then it may be time to seek professional help.
“It's probably not a good idea to continue handling it on your own,” she said, pointing to free resources offered through the Community Service Board in each city. “Tap into those community resources.”