Page last updated: May 18, 2020.
The spread of COVID-19 has led to widespread school closures in the United States, impacting at least 124,000 public and private schools and affecting more than 55 million students.
For the rest of the school year, students have needed to transition to online learning with little time to adapt. Jennifer Weniger, PhD, a licensed psychologist and marriage and family therapist at Loma Linda University Behavioral Health, offers tips for students and their families who are going through this difficult time. “In a time when it feels things are out of control, it’s important to remember the things that are in your control,” Weniger says. She says self-care, stress management and your schedule are all aspects you can control.
A key component of maintaining mental health is self-care. “Caring for your physical, emotional and psychological health can have an effect on your mental health,” Weniger says. She recommends following the food pyramid guidelines for healthy nutrition, getting outside and exercising while still practicing social distancing, and maintaining good hygiene.
“Little things you do daily to prepare for school may feel trivial, but they can promote a healthy mind,” Weniger says. “Don’t stay in your pajamas all day — maintain your regular routine as much as possible and take this opportunity to journal your experiences, or perhaps create a video of your experiences during this time.”
Taking a bath, having a virtual movie night with friends or baking your favorite treat may be just the relaxation you need to help you stay focused during your online classes.
There are bound to be new stressors when you transition to online learning, so Weniger recommends parents create a safe space for their students to talk about their stress. “When your student is feeling overwhelmed, have them take a moment and use deep and paced breathing to calm down,” she says. “This can be a great practice for the parents, too, since they’re taking on several additional stresses as well.”
When things seem overwhelming, Weniger also recommends breaking problems down one step at a time and prioritize the most important problem to tackle. “Utilize your support system in managing each smaller problem within the larger issue,” she says. “This can help with school work as well when it feels crushing.”
Weniger says one of the most important things you can do is to stop and pray. “Stay focused on hope and healing through your relationship with God,” she says.
To continue the conversation, watch Carolina Osorio's Facebook Live segment, "Senior Mental Health during COVID-19." If you or someone you know is struggling with a mental health issue, make sure they know about the Mental Health Programs at Loma Linda University Behavioral Health. Visit LLUBMC.org/MentalHealthMonth to learn more.
The transition to online education has also increased the need to implement daily schedules in the home. Traditional school provides a lot of structure for children five days a week, and now it’s up to the parents to create a schedule. “Sticking to a schedule is important to maintain consistency, structure and accountability for children,” Weniger says. “Encourage your child to wake up and go to bed at the same time each school day, maintain good hygiene, and have a routine for breakfast, snack and lunchtime.”
Weniger recommends using a visual aid in your home such as a whiteboard to illustrate the daily schedule hour-by-hour, and if your child is old enough, involve him or her in the creation of the daily schedule. “Including them will make them feel a part of the process,” she says. Make sure to include any long-term academic goals or projects in a separate section and discuss how to plan ahead for due dates.
“Implementing a structured schedule will help your child feel an increased sense of safety and predictability with the new online learning setting,” Weniger says. “Both you and your child will know what to expect, and it will help you both to stay organized.”
Loma Linda University Health providers are committed to ensuring all patients have access to the care they need during this stressful time. Patients can schedule virtual or telephone visits by visiting MyChart or calling their provider.
To continue the conversation, watch Jennifer Weniger's Facebook Live segment, "COVID-19: Mental Health and Distance Learning."
If you or someone you know is struggling with a mental health issue, make sure they know about the Mental Health Programs at Loma Linda University Behavioral Health. Visit LLUBMC.org/MentalHealthMonth to learn more.