What Middle Schoolers Need in Post-COVID

Middle school students in classroom with masks on.

We have all watched our students and children strive to cope during and after the impact of the pandemic. Lakeside has had to substantially increase our In-School Counseling staff, who work in area schools providing extra support, due to the overwhelming needs that students are experiencing in our post-COVID world. Middle Schoolers are at the height of changes in their brain, their bodies and their behavior. To have the interruption of COVID in their lives has created a great deal of angst and disrupt to them.

In a recent article in the Hechinger Report, Liz Willen takes on the topic of what middle schoolers need in a post-COVID world. Here are some excerpts from this article.

To understand the pandemic’s impact on middle schoolers, picture the pain of lunchtime. A bunch of uncomfortable adolescents are navigating social distancing rules while figuring out when and if to take down their masks. It’s not going well.

Some have given up eating lunch entirely, which worries Phyllis Fagell, a school counselor and author of the book Middle School Matters. She knows this age group. And she knows all this anxiety is not just about masks.

It’s everything.

“They feel really self-conscious and vulnerable,” said Fagell, who has observed a spike in eating disorders since students returned full-time this fall — one of many reentry issues educators are concerned about.

If being isolated at home last year was tough, it turns out being back full-time is also filled with challenges for our eye-rolling, head-shaking, serial-texting middle schoolers, who are enduring a time of life I once deemed “the age of embarrassment.”

The pandemic left many of them behind, both academically and socially, at a most unfortunate phase: an awkward time when they are separating from parents and figuring out who they are and want to be. Their bodies and voices may feel as unfamiliar as their friend groups, after so much time apart or under strict pandemic limitations.

Home school learning of a teen girl studying on the couch using a laptop working on a school assignment online

Middle schoolers, studies confirm, are experiencing more trauma and mental health issues than ever before — something I heard plenty about during a recent virtual conference of the world’s largest association of middle school educators, at a time when major pediatric groups say the state of children’s mental health should be considered a national emergency.

The article continues with more of what middle schoolers are struggling with which is helpful for parents and educators to know.  Here is the link to the rest of this article.

For those of us who have middle schoolers in our lives, we realize that they are going through a number of developmental transitions. Add COVID consequences to that and we are finding many more symptoms that we need to recognize, discuss and help them through. I think some of the issues in this article are enlightening and helpful.

Gerry Vassar


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