Some parents struggling with extreme anxiety ahead of return to school

As the calendar is closing in on the first day of school, some parents are wrestling with extreme anxiety.

"Just the fear of the unknown is terrifying," said Knightdale parent Christina Brewer. "You have this emotional gymnastics in your brain all the time."

Her son, 7-year-old Griffin, has Down Syndrome.

"We've had a lot of tears and not just from him, from me. A lot of crying sessions," said Brewer.

She says Griffin regressed last year staying at home and learning virtually. It's been hard keeping him isolated.

Griffin enjoys social settings and thrives around people.

Brewer worries he doesn't understand the rules of COVID-19, such as wearing a mask and physical distancing.

"He's a hugger. He's an emotional person. He feels things and when you're told 'You can't do that' when you're 6 and 7-years-old, that's just hard to grasp on a good day," she said.

The nonprofit SouthLight recently began reopening counseling rooms for in-person sessions and one counselor said a lot of parents are reaching out for help.

"What is going to happen when they (schools) open? What is the precautions? What are the mandates? How is my child going to feel?" said SouthLight counselor Chelsea McDougal.

She has a few strategies to ease worries.

McDougal suggests slowing down and allowing kids time to adjust, be clear about what matters to you as a parent, and identify your stressors. Fears can transfer.

"A lot of time when we're anxious and unsure, our children can feel that energy and they're unsure," said McDougal.

Brewer says she does make a conscious effort to keep her anxiety at bay, especially around her little boy.
"Check in with friends, check in with your spouse of your mate, or a professional to say 'I need help and I can't do this,'" said Brewer.

There are resources available and you don't spend a ton of money. Several Triangle nonprofits offer free or affordable services.

SouthLight Healthcare

Wake Network of Care

NAMI Wake County

NAMI North Carolina

Lucy Daniels Center

Alliance Health (for Wake Co. residents) 800-510-9132

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: (800) 273-8255

SAMHSA's National Helpline: 800-662-HELP (4357)

Veterans Crisis Line and Resources

Text 838255

Lincoln Community Health Center

CAARE Center
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