We are honored to partner with Kristen Nardolillo, LCSW, Cornerstone Hospice Children’s Bereavement Counselor to provide pertinent information to parents on navigating children's emotional health when returning back to school.

Cornerstone Kids

Sometimes the thought of going back to school does not generate feelings of excitement and anticipation for children. 

As a licensed clinical social worker who deals directly with kids who struggle with a variety of emotions due to the loss of a loved one, since the pandemic began, I have witnessed a common theme which compounds the feelings young ones are experiencing: Uncertainty. 

Children’s lives were turned upside down as they scrambled to adjust to virtual learning, some finding comfort in being able to do their schoolwork from home, others feeling isolated and anxious not having their normal supports surrounding them. Adjusting to what people started calling the “new normal” was the only thing kids could do at the time.

According to a recent survey, 71% of parents say the pandemic has taken a toll on the mental health of at least one of their children.

Today, things seem to be going back to what we once knew school to be, however the pandemic isn’t over yet. Children and teens are picking up on the fear in their communities, and this fear is causing a peak in anxiety for children. That anxiety can manifest into many different issues for young people, from moodiness to bad grades to feeling like they’re helpless.

What should parents do? 

Parents should pay extra close attention to their child’s behaviors during the first few weeks back to school and look for anything that’s outside the norm. Specifically, if your child is isolating him or herself, showing disinterest in activities that he or she would normally enjoy, or showing more extremes in their emotional state, it could be a sign that your child is struggling on an emotional level. 

I’m a big fan of meditation and mindfulness to conquer unpleasant thoughts and feelings. But sitting still and paying attention to the body isn’t always an easy task, especially for irritable little ones. There are many creative ways to engage your child in a mindfulness practice that won’t feel impossible. 

One of my favorite practices, is telling a child to close their eyes and see how many sounds they can “capture” in their mind. Perhaps you can even give the child an incentive for spotting at least 20 different sounds in one sitting. Sometimes you’ll be surprised at how well these little ears can listen! 

Another suggestion I have, particularly for parents of teenagers, is to have frequent open dialogue that allows the teen to feel comfortable, knowing they have a trusted adult they can share things with. In my own household, we host something that we call “Family Circles,” where we each talk about what’s going well and what we each need help with. 

Also, keep your child grounded by maintaining a daily routine. With so much “up in the air,” a consistent routine provides a sense of stability. 

I know this may be hard for teens but limiting screen time can help significantly alleviate anxiety. Spending time in nature, even if it’s a walk around the neighborhood with a trusted adult, can help foster peace and balance.

Here is our recent interview on how we {as parents} can help our children emotionally adapt to the new school year

Click the image to play the video!


Here are some recent statistics that were mentioned in the video

  • A recent survey performed by Children’s Hospital of Chicago found that 71% of parents say the pandemic has taken a toll on the mental health of at least one of their children – this shows that there is a need for more mental health services for children.
  • Another study shows that among Medicaid Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) beneficiaries under the age of 18, the number of children receiving mental health services dropped by 50% from February to October 2020. The same study shows that more than 25% of high school students reported worsening emotional and cognitive health and over 20% of parents with children ages 5-12 reported similar worsening conditions for their children. –this shows that there is a need for more access to mental health services for children.
  • According to JAMA Pediatrics, as of February 2021- 37,300 children ages 0-17 years had lost at least one parent due to Covid-19, three-quarters of whom were adolescents– this shows the need for bereavement specific support for children.
  • A review of 32 billion private health insurance claims by the non-profit FAIR Health, found a 99% increase in cases of teenage intentional self-harm in April 2020 compared to April 2019 and a 119% increase in substance abuse and overdoses in that age group.
Cornerstone’s Kids {a free resource for parents} can help students ease into the new school year. 

Cornerstone’s Kids offers several support services for children and teens living in Lake, Sumter, Orange, Osceola, Polk, Highlands, and Hardee counties. For grieving children (children who have experienced loss of a loved one due to death, incarceration, or deportation), Cornerstone’s Kids offer individual counseling, group counseling, and an annual overnight children’s bereavement camp, Camp Bridges. 

Cornerstone’s Kids also offers several monthly virtual activities that are open to any child between the ages of 6-17, regardless of whether they’ve experienced a loss. 

Activities include arts and crafts, games, music, yoga, movies and more. They are scheduled Monday through Friday, via Zoom. These activities are intended to provide a safe space for kids and teens to come together and realize that they are not alone in their struggles. 

All of the support services we offer are completely free of cost to families. To learn more about Cornerstone’s Kids and to register for the activities, visit https://CornerstoneHospice.org/Cornerstones-Kids or call 866-742-6655.

Additionally, if a child or other members of the family need more intensive support services or mental health counseling, Cornerstone Centers for Wellbeing is a new private practice in the Orlando area which sees clients who need assistance with mental disorders, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, substance abuse and addictive behaviors. https://CornerstoneCentersforWellbeing.org

About Cornerstone Hospice

Cornerstone Hospice is a leading community-owned provider of end-of-life care in Central Florida. For 37 years Cornerstone has set the standard for hospice care as we serve more than 7,000 people in Lake, Sumter, Orange, Osceola, Polk, Hardee and Highlands counties each year. For more information, to donate, or to volunteer, call 866-742-6655 or visit www.CornerstoneHospice.org.


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