BILLINGS, Mont. - A Billings psychiatrist offered tips to help manage back-to-school stress, especially with some of the additional concerns related to the pandemic.

"We don't have a script for how to operate life or operate schools in the middle of a pandemic, Billings Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist Erin Amato, MD said. "Everybody is trying to do their best right now. Just trying to emphasize that message with our kids so they emulate that with their peers and are kind to other kids at school."

Dr. Amato said most of the kids she's seeing are expressing typical back-to-school excitement and reluctance. She said she's hearing more anxiety and uncertainty from the parents. 

Dr. Amato has the following tips for parents and kids:

1- Kids often mirror the emotions of the adults around them. "My advice to a lot of the adults is really watch your emotions and maybe keep the negative comments and the negative conversations around kids to a minimum," she said. "As much as possible, try to emphasize the positive."

2- Routines are important stress busters. Dr. Amato said this includes a good sleep schedule, as well as organizing things the night before to avoid a frantic morning rush.

3- Take a deep breath and focus on what you can control

Billings Parent Adam Greenwell said he's using some of the debate surrounding COVID-19 policies in schools as a teaching opportunity with his kids.

"Kids need to understand and they need to see us disagree in a way that's respectful and doesn't dehumanize, because that's what they learn and that's what they replicate," Greenwell said. "So, all of this dissension, all of this anger, we have to look at what we serve. And, I don't want to serve any of that and I don't want my kids to serve any of that. Whether we agree or not, at the end of the day we have to show grace."

"The bottom line is we have to live with each other," he added. "It comes back down to loving: loving God and loving people."

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