Youth Services Center Provides Aid to Struggling Students

Maggie Phelps, Writer

We are all aware that 2020 has been a year full of many ups and downs.  As we approach the end of this long year, we are also approaching the holiday season which brings on lots of stress for both families and students.  This holiday season will be a difficult one for everyone, but how will it directly affect students in a social and financial way? 

Statistics from the American Psychological Organization say that families with children are expected to experience more stress this holiday season than those families without children. 

Households with children are more likely to report anticipating stress this holiday season than those without, with more than half anticipating stress caused by not having the money to purchase gifts (51 v. 37 percent without children), and one-third expecting stress due to pressure to buy gifts (32 v. 25 percent).”

This also comes along with the fact that families are said to be experiencing more stress this holiday season than they were last year. 

“These stressors may explain why many families with children (30 percent v. 21 percent without) report that they expect to experience more stress this holiday season than last year” according to the site.

With this information, we can conclude that families with children experience a typical amount of stress in a normal holiday season, with the changes we have made to our normal lives the stress has been magnified. 

Central Hardin’s Youth Services Coordinator, Brendan Bird has special insight into the world of students struggling with life during a pandemic, as well as the holidays.  

I think there is some pressure to buy gifts for others during this season, which may not be feasible., she said.  “If students are supporting their own families’ needs, they may not have the extra income to buy non-essential items. The money they make may go towards a college fund, bills, car payments, groceries and more.” 

She continued to say, “The Family Resource Youth Services Centers across Hardin County Schools have seen a record breaking year in holiday assistance applications. More and more families are seeking financial assistance this year because of layoffs and unemployment.”

Students’ financial needs vary from person to person.  Switching to NTI has put some stress and more financial strain on students. 

 “Some businesses may be taking advantage of NTI and working students through the normal school hours instead of waiting to schedule them after school,” Bird said.  “Families are experiencing unemployment and layoffs because of COVID-19, and because of this, some students are supporting their families with their own paychecks.”

Seasonal depression is a term that many people are familiar with, but how it affects our student body every holiday season is something that most peers aren’t acquainted with.  

Bird says that the CHHS youth service center handles students facing seasonal depression every year and that the counseling services are rather consistent throughout the year. 

“Although I cannot diagnose the symptoms of seasonal depression, we have had students ask for counseling services since NTI has started,” she said. “Studies are showing that students are experiencing depression and anxiety due to isolation and school shutdowns.”

Online learning has caused many students to be removed from their friends and spend the majority of their day in isolation.  That in-person connection is something that keeps many friendships strong and allows for students’ spirits to be lifted during these difficult times. 

 “Due to the pandemic, students are not able to see their friends like they would in a regular school year,” Bird said. “In the past, after a winter break, we hear students say how happy they are to see their friends again. We are hoping for a safe return after winter break so students are able to be in the building again.”

Along with the challenge of connecting to peers due to NTI, some students find it difficult to communicate with their peers or connect to make friends due to their financial situation. 

“Some students are not able to have the newest iPhone or the most expensive shoes and unfortunately, that can affect them socially,” Bird said. “I think more students are understanding that certain items shouldn’t make you cool vs. uncool, that we need to dig deeper and realize how you treat people is the one of the most valuable traits someone can have.”

It is obvious to all of us that a student’s financial status does not define them and that no matter how rich or how poor you are, you are still worthy of having quality friends.  However, are we really putting in the effort to befriend those who are different from us?  What stands in our way? This holiday season we all need to grow together and be there for each other, now more than ever.  The Central Hardin Youth Service Center is here to serve you.  We urge you that if you are feeling stressed, anxious, overwhelmed or depressed; that you reach out to the service centers provided to you via CHHS.