Kids are feeling the strain and stress, too

Allowing your kids to talk about the stress they're feeling during COVID-19 and modeling good behavior by talking about
Allowing your kids to talk about the stress they’re feeling during COVID-19 and modeling good behavior by talking about your own feelings can help kids feel more in control of their emotions. (Adobe Stock)

First schools shut down in March to help mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. Then — as students waited for an uncertain return to learning — the derecho swept through Eastern Iowa with little warning, causing significant damage to neighborhoods, houses and school buildings themselves.

The kids are under a lot of stress, said Maggie Hartzler, school-based program manager at Tanager Place in Cedar Rapids.

While schools are positioning themselves to best help students through the uncertainty, there are resources parents and guardians can access to help their child work through the turbulence — and find some solace themselves.

The Cedar Rapids Community School District is partnering with Tanager Place, a Linn County-based human services agency that serves the mental health needs of children and teenagers.

While the district has had a long-standing partnership with Tanager Place, this year, a Tanager Place therapist has been placed in each school building to serve students.

Hartzler said the therapists are hearing from students that they are managing an unprecedented amount of uncertainty.

“It’s who’s going to be sick, who will be at school today or not, and you throw the derecho on top of that, displacing a lot of families and kids,” Hartzler said.


The uncertainty is manifesting in many students as agitation and distraction. It’s hard to focus on math class when you have a lot of other worries, she said.


One of the most basic things parents and guardians can do to help their children is to help them name their feelings and model naming your feelings, Hartzler said.

“We can all relate to that shorter fuse students are feeling,” Hartzler said. “It’s more stress at work, more stress at home, I might snap a lot more than I would otherwise.

“Try saying, ‘I’m sorry I snapped at you. I’ve been feeling a lot of stress and worry, and sometimes that means I get a little grouchy. Are you feeling a little grouchy because of all the changes we’re going through this year?’”


Tanager Place is offering several virtual support groups for students,

One of the groups is for students who are quarantining for two weeks.

“They can check in with each other and say ‘This sucks. I’m really worried. I don’t want to get sick,’” Hartzler said.

Another group offered by Tanager is one for caregivers to come together and talk about parenting during the pandemic, Hartzler said.


To help parents through this challenging time, Worldmaker International, a nonprofit that works to grow human resilience, has been working with Cedar Rapids schools to provide a free “Pandemic Parenting” program.

Stephanie Neff, Cedar Rapids schools supervisor of wellness and community partnerships, said it’s important to use resources like those offered by Tanager Place and Worldmaker before “it becomes overwhelming.”

Students — and parents — are grieving the loss of connection and friendship, Neff said.

“We’ve never been here before,” she said. “The combination of the pandemic and the derecho, along with the technology that is available, put us in a unique place in terms of navigating children’s, parents’ and teachers’ capacity to thrive.


“I think a lot of parents are feeling overwhelmed and not efficient at parenting right now,” she said. “Tap in to some of those resources available, so your child has someone they can talk to.”

The Pandemic Parenting program offers brief training videos that focus on helping adults improve their own emotional wellness and equip them to support their child.

Program development was overseen by Dr. Mollie Marti, a social psychologist and Worldmaker CEO.

“Helpers benefit from a research-informed framework to grow strength within their homes, schools, organizations and communities,” Marti said in a news release. “We are excited to innovate new ways to support parents as they face the demands of working and schooling from home within the stress of a global pandemic.”

The program was developed as a part of a $200,000 CARES Act grant to Worldmaker.

Pandemic Parenting can be accessed for free at through the end of 2020.

To check out Tanager Place’s virtual programming, visit or call (319) 365-9164.

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