inFocus: Psychologist focus on social-emotional health for students as virtual learning continues


FAIRFAX, Va. (WDVM) — To start out the school year, many classrooms have continued with virtual learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic. According to psychologists, this can affect a student’s social-emotional health. One reason why is because students are home without their peers.

Dr.Carolyn Heier, Clinical Psychologist said, “Children like to be around their peers and play. We know that for children playing is actually serious stuff, that’s how they learn about their physical world, but it’s how they learn to interact with others.”

With virtual learning, comes little social interaction and according to Dr. Heier which can lead to depressive symptoms and, or anxiety. One Fairfax County Public School mother said these days, a way for her two sons to relieve energy after their schooling is by playing outside or riding their bikes.

Shereen Marcus, FCPS, Mother said, “I have to force them just to go outside, and they don’t realize how much they need to go outside until I actually force them out the door.”

Marcus said with her boys learning from home, she questions how long this will continue.

“To be honest, if virtual learning is going to go on for a prolonged period of time, we’re probably going to look into private school options. I know they’re private schools in Northern Virginia that are doing hybrids and allowing a few days in school. I don’t think my kids can mentally handle virtual learning much longer.”

Dr. Heier said, “I think parents and teachers alike may have difficulties if children are struggling emotionally, kids may have meltdowns that parents need to handle.”

Marcus said she does not see the pro’s outweighing the con’s when it comes to her sons’ learning experience and at the same token she knows she has to weigh the mental effects and mental toll that is effecting her sons from being home for so long.

“There’s more about it that takes getting used to. It takes adapting to, I think if it’s a strain on adults, as we’ve seen it has been, we can expect it to be harder on children” said Heier.

Heier said however kids are adaptive and resilient enough, for when schools do open again, a lot of their stressors will go away.

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