“The Light at the End of the Tunnel” helps community respond to heightened anxiety



The Brookline Parent Education Network (B-PEN) and the Brookline Department of Public Health hosted Light at the End of the Tunnel: Strategies and Resources for the Transitions Ahead, which helped ease the heightened anxiety for students and provide ways to help

Light at the End of the Tunnel: Strategies and Resources for the Transitions Ahead, arranged by Brookline Parent Education Network (B-PEN) and the Brookline Department of Public Health was hosted on April 6th, 2021 at 7 p.m. via WebinarJam.

Clinical Director of Minding Your Mind Jon Mattleman spoke about ways to approach the heightened anxiety that is caused by transitions in learning models in the Public Schools of Brookline. The webinar will be accessible on the B-PEN website for a week.

Mattleman said that at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the introduction of new norms forced families to make many challenging adjustments.

“Our world was crunched into a small ball. Each crinkle represents a side effect of the pandemic like anxiety, anger, depression or an eating disorder,” Mattleman said.

Mattleman said we should be “physical distancing” rather than “social distancing” because we need social interactions to maintain our mental health.

Mattleman also suggests replacing common phrases like “virtual learning” and “virtual teaching” with “pandemic learning” and “pandemic teaching.” Mattleman said that using the word, “pandemic” is inclusive of the added fatigue and worries, whereas the use of the word “virtual” discredits the reality of the circumstances students and teachers are under.

According to Mattleman, developing brains lack a complete system to stop them from taking risks, which can cause teens to consistently require support from adult mentors. Example of such support can be found on slides two and seven above.

Mattleman said different forms and symptoms of anxiety can look like a learning disability as it changes the way your brain functions.

“Anxiety hijacks your brain and you need to hijack it back,” Mattleman said.

The first step for guardians to support their children is to start a conversation and propose allotting a time slot every week to talk about stress, according to Matttleman.

“Let’s give our kids license to talk about their worries,” Mattleman said.

Mattleman also said parents could support children by asking questions to create an open conversation and relationship.

The webinar provided multiple strategies for parents in helping their children to overcome their mental health struggles. Mattleman said parents should focus on factors that they control and not make assumptions about their children’s inner battles.

“Just be there with them, let’s not assume what’s going on with them. There should be no shame,” Mattleman said.

Mattleman recommends that parents highlight their childrens’ successes as they likely only notice their setbacks and to address childrens’ stresses uniquely.

“It’s our job to point out specific examples of what our kids have done well,” Mattleman said. “Let’s be creative and individualize how we approach each child’s stress and worries.”