LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -- Monday marks the start of the new school year for the Clark County School District and health experts are seeing more than the normal first day jitters.
Since some students have remained with virtual learning, tomorrow will be the first day back in person in a year, and with that comes a new kind of anxiety.
For some kindergartners, tomorrow will also be their first time at a school building as a first grader.
Sasha DeCania is the chief clinical officer with Ignite Teen Treatment, a program that provides mental health and substance abuse counseling for adolescents between the ages of 12 and 18. As a mom of three herself starting school, she said there are concerns being expressed of being back in the classroom.
“Some of the things I hear is that transition back to being with people and this idea of well I’ve been alone for so long or I’ve been communicating through social media or other electronic means, now I have to be with people again and what’s that going to be like? Am I going to be ready for that, is it going to be safe around other people? You know a lot of young people are deep thinkers and they’re thinking about social events going on right now so there is that worry- kids are communicating that," DeCania said.
DeCania also spoke on some of the signs of anxiety or stress parents should look out for around this time.
“In past years where I’ve answered this question, my answer is somewhat the same. I always say look out for extremes or changes from the norm. So if your child is the kind of kid that sleeps a lot, no problem and they’re doing that, no problem, but if your kid is not sleeping as much as they usually do or sleeping much more than they usually do, not eating as much as they usually do or eating much more than they usually do," DeCania said.
She recommends talking with children about their schedule and create a routine with them.
“Make everything pretty routine, 'hey, on Monday, I’m going to drop you off at this time,' 'I’m going to pick you up at this time,' 'do you have your books,' 'lets go through your backpack,' 'do you have what you need?' ... You know here’s what you do in this situation, walk them through it. 'What are you going to do for lunch?' Make it very out in the open and a conversation that you have. I usually recommend families start that conversation as soon as possible but even if you do it in the morning on the way to school that’s fine too," DeCania said. "Even something as simple as letting them know what time you'll be calling them or texting them will create connection."
She also recommends writing encouraging notes they can see when they're at school.
“I would say that lots of young people if you can write notes, little people, littles right, not maybe your high schoolers but write a note to them. Put it in their lunch. Write a note to them and put it in their binder or their folder. Something that's encouraging and reminding them the day is done at this time and I'm going to be right there for you," DeCania said.
DeCania said the best advice for parents dealing with stress or anxiety themselves is to take care of themselves.
“I would actually say that to some extent it’s more important for parents to take care of themselves because what you often times see is when the parent is not well, kids are not well. They are inextricably linked," DeCania said.
She encouraged parents to be a model for their kids and be open about it.
"If you’re having a hard time, own it, say to your kid, 'you know what, this is a struggle, I’m worried, but this is what I’m doing to handle that,'” DeCania said.
Parents have expressed their worries their child has fallen behind.
DeCania said she thinks students will have an eagerness to learn and be back in a routine with school. She also said there's time for kids to catch up.
"I know there was a lot of worry that over the last couple of years with kids being home they didn’t learn as much as they could and something that I said to a lot of parents is how many kids come to the United States who don’t’ speak English and all those things? And they get caught up by the time they leave high school right. So part of my hope for this year is people will realize even if their kids have some catching up to do, they’re not lost. Right, they’re going to get caught up. Where there’s a will there’s a way," DeCania said.
At Gen Taylor Elementary School, counselor Chelsea Tystad held what she called "transition groups" a week ago. The groups included students who did online learning for a year a chance to visit the campus in person.
“We sat in circles and talked about things they were worried about and it ranged from, 'what if a kid by me doesn’t have a mask on?' To 'what if I get lost,' or 'what if my teacher doesn’t like me,' so very typical worries for kids and then some new ones due to the COVID," Tystad said.
She said lunch seems to be a big topic lately.
She said some teachers have decided to have lunch inside classrooms, some schools have decided to split lunch between a courtyard and lunchroom. If a student has an immunocompromised loved one at home, they can opt to have lunch at the end of a bench or lunch table so they can have the most distance as possible.
“We just need to reassure them that we are going to keep them safe, we’re wiping down tables, we’re washing hands, we’re wearing masks, and we’re doing everything we can in the school building to keep them safe. And then once they go home I assure them their parents are going to do everything to keep them safe there," Tystad said.