COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ann Woodford is the Director of Foster Care and Education based services for the Buckeye Ranch and a mother of two middle school girls. 

What You Need To Know

  • With schools across the country going virtual for the time being, psychiatrists warn the mental health consequences can be dire for children. 

  • Rates of anxiety and depression among children are expected to rise

  • But experts say there are ways families can help children cope with the social isolation and strong emotions that go along with it

She oversees nearly 300 2nd through 12th grade students each day who are battling underlying mental health challenges.

Woodford said the pandemic has presented some very unique challenges for the Buckeye Ranch's Bonner Academy—some that we can often take for granted. 

“Within our population, just things like material resources, so for example a lot of our kids don't have internet at home. And we had a lot of community providers step up and say you know, we're going to give you help with that,” said Woodford. 

Many of the students at The Buckeye Ranch need specific therapy and treatment, which often times is not provided by an in-home learning environment.

Pyschiatric Medical Director at the Buckeye Ranch Dr. Patricia Gentile explains there is a grim reality to the equation. Neglect and abuse are on the rise, and many of those cases are usually reported on by teachers, coaches and guidance counselors.

“Stressed out group of people all living together. And we do know there's been more substance abuse and that is a trigger for a lot of abuse,” said Gentile. 

But there are ways to safeguard children who are forced to adapt to the new normal.

Gentile advices parents to set up a structured day with time allocated for breaks, and if you have the means, consider “learning pods” or small in-person groups of students who learn together with the help of a teacher or tutor. 

And she said while parents and children may feel disappointed, frustrated, or even a little anxious, it's important to have open dialog and keep your mind, body and spirit aligned.

“So it would be great to include them on the conversation of how they want to set up school and what would help them to learn. Level of stress is going to affect all of us in the future. This is going to be a unique generation growing up. It's not like one is going to have an advantage over another. They're all going through it. Twenty to 30 minutes of exercise a day dramatically helps with anxiety and depression,” said Gentile. 

And Woodford said eventually, show some grace when you do send your child back to school.

“It's hard as a parent when you have your own stressors going on, balancing work, balancing home. Know that they're getting messages and if you can try to put on a positive face, that's powerful for your kids,” said Woodford. 

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