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Iowa social worker reports increased anxiety in some children since last March

Dr. Andrea Iavarone says changes to students’ routines, like the switch between different learning models in school, can impact their sense of structure.

As many Iowa students in the Quad Cities Area continue 100 percent in-person learning for the first time in nearly a year, a Bettendorf social worker says the change is making an impact on some students of all ages.

"When (children) don't have that sense of security and you're isolated, especially if you're an adolescent, you don't have your teen friends to rely on and it just becomes kind of a scary place," Dr. Andrea Iavarone says.

Dr. Iavarone, with Family Counseling and Psychology Center and Walden University, says she’s seen increased anxiety with the children she works with since last spring, as COVID-related lockdowns began and schools moved to remote learning for months. 

"There's so much uncertainty, loss and grief that surround that experience for so many kids, working with them at the time, working with the kids, even those who weren't big fans of school began to miss it. (They) miss that structure and routine."

Dr. Iavarone says changes to students’ routines, like the switch between remote, hybrid and in-person learning models in school, can impact their sense of structure.

"Kids thrive on routine and their sense of security was kind of taken away," Dr. Iavarone says.

Dr. Iavarone says it's important for parents and guardians to pay close attention to their child's emotions and mental health through this time. For the older kids, she suggests reinforcing positive feelings and strength. 

"One of the things I'd love to see parents do is reinforce that their kids are so strong," she says. "They're still here and standing. They're doing what no one else has ever done, at least in the recent memory of anyone we know. So reinforce that they're part of living history."

As for young children, she suggests a different approach. 

"Let them be a little more clingy in a positive way and give them positive attention," Dr. Iavarone says. 

For all children, she says parents should keep an eye on what information their student is taking in online.

"With the teens, it's important to keep them away from spiraling down into social media, and googling about COVID-19," Dr. Iavarone says. "Just the facts is what both kids and teens need, not an overabundance of it."