48 LONGISLANDPRESS.COM • JANUARY 2021
FAMILY & EDUCATION
ADDRESSING KIDS’ MENTAL HEALTH AMID COVID-19
continued from page 47
Kelly, who works as a school psychologist
at a high school in Suffolk County,
says schools’ emphasis on mental
health has manifested itself in training
teachers to incorporate SEL in their lessons.
The state education department’s
SEL benchmarks and guidance help
build students’ self-awareness, interpersonal
skills, and decision making,
among other fundamental lessons.
The pandemic is interrupting typical
school instruction and causing added
stress for kids. Some are on hybrid
schedules, learning remotely on some
days and in the classroom on others.
They are not seeing friends or socializing
in person as often, and like
everyone these days, they are dealing
with lots of uncertainty about what
“We’re seeing a new emergence of students
who are struggling,” Kelly notes.
To address this, some schools have
increased their outreach to parents,
“giving them strategies and techniques
to help them with whatever difficulties
they’re going through,” Kelly says.
When a child’s issue is too much to deal
with at home, school psychologists will
either provide counseling themselves
or refer families to outside professionals.
Unfortunately, those outside
resources can be scarce in certain communities
and for certain populations,
specifically for the youngest children,
“We have a general lack of social service
providers for young children, so
it falls on the schools,” he explains. “It’s
difficult to find providers for elementary
students through middle school.”
Child psychologists are seeing the impacts
of the pandemic from their remote
offices as well.
“I’m not only worried about the effects
of Covid,” said Dr. Jaclyn Shlisky, a
licensed clinical psychologist and certified
school psychologist based in Syosset,
during a Zoom workshop hosted by
Nassau County Legislator Josh Lafazan
in November. The subject was staying
mentally healthy during the holidays.
“I’m worried about the mental health
toll that this is taking on everybody,
especially our older community and
Shlisky, along with Dr. Laura Braider,
a child psychologist and director of
Northwell Health’s Behavioral Health
College Partnership, says that a common
problem for children right now
is feeling disconnected from the community.
Both have been seeing young
patients via telemedicine since Covid-19
hit in the spring.
If someone seems to be struggling with
their mental health, Shlisky said, the
first step is to identify the emotion. She
suggested that people try drawing to
discover how they feel, which could be
a great activity for kids.
Braider emphasizes that parents should
listen to and validate their children’s
concerns. Then, it’s all about recognizing
those feelings and addressing them
She also likes to remind people that
“mood and activity are connected,” so
even if children are at home all day, they
could schedule activities they enjoy,
including ones that involve reaching
out to others and demonstrating their
Studies have shown that practicing
gratitude can significantly improve
one’s mental health, Shlisky noted. She
suggested that parents start that routine
with their kids.
“You don’t need to ask ‘What did you do
at school?’ every single day,” she says.
“What are you gonna get? ‘Nothing,
nothing, nothing.’ Say, ‘What are you
grateful for that you did at school?’”
"We're seeing a new resurgence of students who
are struggling," says Dr. John Kelly.
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