Back on campus, school counselors work to help kids mental wellness

MEDFORD, Ore. – Despite many kids already returning to the classroom, the conversation about mental health continues, as kids adjust to their new routines. During the pandemic, many kids, just like adults have faced isolation and uncertainty. Now that most kids are back in schools, faculty and teachers are addressing those concerns. But the trauma that many kids face during the pandemic still lies beneath the surface.

“We’re seeing kids struggle a little bit more with emotions. It can be anything from anxiety to ADHD to depression to trauma,” said Elisa Travertini-Windbigler, “What we find is it all impacts their ability to learn”.

The Director of La Clinica’s school-based centers, Elise Travertini-Windbigler, said since kids have come back to school they’ve seen an increase in mental health referrals.

“We see some of the older kids might feel a little anxious coming back to peers,” said Travertini-Windbigler, “Little kids you’re seeing it in behaviors, so they haven’t been used to school rules and the whole structure. So part of that is helping them get some of that big feelings out”.

Travertini-Windbigler said it’s an adjustment period students are in and many are seeing improvements as they get back to a regular routine.

“It’s been such a time of uncertainty that kids don’t really do well if they don’t know what’s ahead,” said Selena Alderson, Social-Emotional Counselor at North Middle School with Grants Pass School District 7.

Alderson is working with her colleagues to create a safe and positive environment for kids. She said it starts with how teachers greet students.

“It almost feels like we’re waiting for royalty to show up. And then they show up and everyone is like they’re here, they’re here,” said Alderson.

But both Travertini-Windbigler and Alderson told NBC5 News most of the work needs to happen at home.

“I would just encourage parents to be fully present when they’re talking to their kids. Maybe even getting down to their level, looking them straight in the eye, and not missing what it is they’re telling them,” said Alderson.

While it may take a village to raise kids the counselors said it’s important to know they’re supported during these unsettling times. Alderson said if parents took at least 10 minutes of uninterrupted time with their child it could mean the world to them.

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