As we mark the one year watershed moment when life changed dramatically due to Covid – 19, we do see progress being made.

We have a more defined knowledge of ways to protect by wearing masks, social distancing, and proper hand hygiene.

We have a broader knowledge of how to medically treat Covid

We have multiple vaccines available for being distributed nationally providing innoculation options

We are beginning to move toward gradual, phased reopening of public venues, including elementary schools moving to in person learning.

This is a vital step forward for our children and communities.

The data on the toll that Covid has taken on our mental health is very clear and not promising. Boston Children’s Hospital reports an increase of over 40% admissions to their Emergency Department from March to October 2020 with youth presenting with suicidal ideation. That is an enormous increase from the previous year.

We know that children and teens have experienced increased isolation, increase in screen time, loss due to activities being curtailed. We know that by age 14 50% of mental health issues begin to emerge. This has certainly been aggravated with the challenges Covid has created for adults, families, youth, communities and the work place.

Teens use adolescence as a time to gain independence and benefit hugely from social connection and friendships. Covid has created enormous obstacles for maintaining the traditional developmental trajectory that is vital to navigating developmental steps. With that we have seen increases in anxiety, depression, and stress related issues.

The step back to school is very important but must be undertaken with caution and thoughtful planning and understanding. Our youth will benefit from return to routines, social connections with peers and teacher and regaining a sense of normalcy.

I want to encourage an understanding that we need to view this return through the lens of our children and properly prepare them. Some will be quite excited and literally bounce back in to the classroom. Others may feel more trepidation as we ask them to leave what has been their norm for the past year. It is imperative that we remember that children absorb from adults around them, they deserve guidance and help going back to school and lots of reinforcement that we are all here for them, every step of the way.