Over the last few weeks, I have had conversations with many parents and their teens about the risks and benefits of online learning, and the decision about whether to send their kids to school when classes resume in person.

Deciding whether or not to send your children to school is a personal family decision that can only be made after considering the health risks, to each and every family member, including extended family and elders.

This latest wave has not only made more people sick, but it has also divided us even more, between those that support and encourage vaccines, and those that don't. Between those that want businesses open, vs those that worry about the risks. Those who believe we should open borders and start travelling and those who want more restrictions and government mandates.

When it comes to school, the latest wave has parents more concerned than ever about whether to send their kids to school. Some families have happily, or (reluctantly) sent them. Others have decided to keep their kids home.

I can't help but be encouraged we might be nearing an end to all this.

In this video, Dr. Been, a trusted Doctor and Medical Lecturer reviews a new research study from the University of California Berkely, Kaiser Permanente Institute and the Centre For Disease Control (CDC) says that the Omicron Variant, which is quickly displacing the Delta Variant has substantially reduced risk compared to Delta (check out the first 3 minutes).

Dr. Been

Doctor John Campbell, is another doctor who has earned my trust, and who I have followed daily for the past year. He closely tracks of the latest research and has accurately predicted the coming and going of waves, numbers of cases, and deaths, often weeks in advance of our government and the traditional media who seem to always be a step behind.

He has provided my family with a level of comfort and reassurance that I've been immensely grateful for. In this video, he predicts based on a number of studies that COVID is entering an endemic stage - where it will constantly be with us, but where we will be better able to manage its harm much like common colds, HIV, measles, malaria and tuberculosis.

Dr. John Campbell

Of course, reducing risk doesn't mean NO risk. We may not know whether we or a family member has an underlying condition. As we move forward it will continue to be important to understand the risks and to consult your physician about such decisions. You may also want to follow these two doctors for detailed and comprehensive information.

Benefits of Teen Friendships

As parents consider whether to send their kids to school, it is also important to consider the mental health benefits and risks. That is especially true for those kids who may be at risk or have a history of mental health problems. Research continues to accumulate about the academic, social and mental health costs that online learning and social isolation are having on kids and teens. It remains to be seen what the long-term costs will be.

However, teens, in particular, have important needs related to friendship and social relationships. Teen friendships help young people feel a sense of acceptance and belonging. They help teens become more compassionate, caring, and empathetic, and they play an essential role in forming a sense of identity outside the family.

Most importantly, adolescent friendships can be incredibly supportive in helping teens to remain resilient in difficult times, such as this pandemic.

Teen Friendship: Balancing COVID Safety and Teen Mental Health

Research shows teen friendships help:

  • Reduce stress
  • Increase Immune function
  • Improve self-esteem
  • Lower rates of anxiety
  • Provide teens with a happier, more optimistic outlook
  • Increase life expectancy
  • Improve emotional regulation skills
  • Improved cognitive function

This article on The Importance of Teen Friendship, lays out the immense benefits that friendship plays in adolecent wellbeing.  It also debunks the popular belief that teen friendships always encourage risky behaviour. In fact, they are far more likely to encourage your son or daughter to make healthy choices and encourage one another to do well.

The article covers important topics such as the role of social media on teen mental health and how parents and caregivers can talk to their teens about the importance of quality friendships. Most importantly it reminds us that meaningful teen friendships predict more positive mental health in adulthood.

Five Star Wellbeing Action Item

While you may need to keep your son or daughter home from school to avoid COVID or keep someone with a health condition safe, it's also worth considering the many ways school benefits your kids by staying connected with friends. If they must stay home, look for other ways to help them maintain their friendships in healthy, safe ways.

Time with friends can go a long way in keeping them mentally healthy and well. It will also help them better navigate these uncertain times, serve as an outlet to reduce tension and conflict at home, and benefit their mental health and sense of self now and in the future.

Take good care of yourself,


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About the Author:

Derrick McEachern is a Registered Counselling Therapist (RCT) in Nova Scotia, and a Canadian Certified Counsellor.  He specializes in providing mindfulness-based cognitive therapy in the areas of addiction, healthy relationships, grief and loss, and career and life transitions. He offers workshops and webinars and consults with businesses on ways to improve employee wellbeing and mental health.

Derrick McEachern

Derrick McEachern, M.Ed., RCT, CCC
Counselling Therapist, Owner
Five Star Wellbeing Counselling and Mental Health
tel: 902 698 1194

Nova Scotia College of Counselling Therapists
Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association

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