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How changes in the school year affect students' mental health

While every district's plan looks different one thing is the same: there will be big changes. That can take a toll on a kid's mental well being.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — School districts are getting ready to welcome students back but the school year will look like nothing we've seen before. Many kids will embark on another few weeks of learning from home. Those who do go to school will enter buildings under strict new rules and guidelines to protect people from the coronavirus. 

All of the changes can affect a student's mental health. Dr. Nanette Funderburk, a licensed professional therapist, says kids need the personal relationships that come with going back to school. 

"As human beings we are built to have that interpersonal contact and when we don't have that contact, things can start to shift for us in a way that may not be positive," she said. 

The balance between keeping kids safe from the virus and mitigating the possible negative side effects of staying home is something districts across the country are struggling with. 

Dr. Funderburk says kids learn to be adults in school. They learn how to settle differences, have conversations and express how they feel.

"We learn how to do life by being children first," she said. "Some of this is being thwarted for them in ways that may be able to be made up later."

Big changes at school may be overwhelming to kids. Dr. Funderburk says being up front with your student about what's to come can alleviate some of that stress. 

"You want to be up front with them so that number one, they know that when you come to me I recognize that, 'okay, they're saying it, I can believe it and I can start to act on what you've told me,'" she said.

Funderburk says kids can feel parent's stress and pick up your nervous tendencies. So how you handle the changes correlates to how they will perceive the upcoming year. 

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