Summer programs are helping kids address mental health challenges

summer camp kids' health
Posted at 1:55 PM, Jul 09, 2021

There's no air conditioning inside of the classroom where Kate Martin and Tafadzwa Musekiwa are teaching. The building wasn't meant to be in use during the middle of July. But these two guidance counselors are committed to helping kids who have struggled re-adjusting, as the country emerges from COVID-19.

Martin and Musekiwa are both counselors at Londonderry High School in New Hampshire. Even though classes here were let out weeks ago, these two guidance counselors are teaching about 18 students every morning. It's not summer school but more like summer camp.

This school district and others across the country are running summer programs to help kids who've struggled to emerge from the pandemic.

"I think a lot of our kids feel a loss of control and they don’t know what’s happening, what’s going on around them," Martin said sitting inside one of the school's classrooms.

Making friends is one of the biggest things they're working on here. Parents and teachers nationwide are realizing that kids are dealing with a lot of anxiety, especially when it comes to relationships because of how much social time was lost during the pandemic.

"A lot of our kids were saying, ‘I don’t know how to make friends anymore,’" Martin added.

Sometimes, finding solutions is as simple as having students write down ideas to help with self-care.

"We’re talking about friendships, boundaries. Sometimes we are talking about meditation, self-care, even yoga. Looking for skills they might not have had for the last 14 months," Musekiwa added.

Schools districts across the country are running similar programs and for good reason. According to the Keiser Family Foundation, parents with children ages 5 to 12 reported seeing that their kids had elevated symptoms of depression related to the pandemic.

Dr. Eileen Kennedy-Moore is a clinical psychologist. Even though many kids ended up back in classrooms by the end of the school year, she's seen lingering mental health issues.

"The strain, the strangeness, the uncertainty, and isolation have taken a toll on kids and families," Dr. Kennedy-Moore added.

Much like what the summer program at Londonderry High School is trying to accomplish, there is one thing she says parents should focus on this summer.

"If you want to know the number one thing about helping your kid go back to school, help them make friends."