Our Chicago: Addressing students' well-being as they return to school

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Over the last year and a half, students have seen their schools closed, they have shifted to remote learning, big events like prom and even graduations were changed or canceled.

This month, children are going back to school facing more uncertainty. COVID-19 numbers are up, there are heated debates about wearing masks in the classroom, and kids are caught in the middle.

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Parents should foucs on truly listening to their kids when they speak, Dr. John T. Walkup, Lurie Children's Hospital.



All this comes as experts say the number of kids seeking help for their mental health has skyrocketed.

"I think the most important thing is really that first component of good listening, and that is to really hear the child out and let them explain everything that they really are thinking about," said Dr. John T. Walkup, chair of the Pritzker Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health at Lurie Children's Hospital. "Most parents, what happens is a kid will say something, and they'll interrupt them, they'll provide some advice or some guidance or try and get them to not feel that way, and I think that really is not the best way to listen to your child. The best way is really to say, 'I hear what you're saying, Can you tell me more? Is there more to what you want to say to me?,' and that way you can get everything out on the table, and you have a complete understanding of what the child is really thinking about and experiencing."

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Amundsen High School aims to be proactive when trying to reconnect students who may be disengaged when returning to school.



At Chicago's Amundsen High School, the staff has an extensive plan in place to help students reconnect after months of disruption. That includes "reengagement groups."

"While some of the strategies will apply to all the student body, we know that we have to do things that are more specifically targeted to fewer students and to individual students, and so this reengagement team is really being proactive about identifying students that have disengaged and are looking at academic and attendance data to understand that," said Cybill Ortiz, assistant principal at Amundsen High School.
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