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WSU nursing director says structure, voicing emotions key in coronavirus isolation during S-R forum

Maintaining a consistent daily schedule and allowing students to process the loss of a school year are keys to keeping your household mentally healthy during the pandemic, Anne Mason of Washington State University’s College of Nursing said Tuesday.

“If they know that some things in their life have changed, they’re obviously not going to school, but the overall structure to their day is the same, they will actually respond much better and have a lot fewer emotional reactions,” said Mason, the director of WSU’s doctor of nursing practice program and a practicing mental health clinician.

That daily schedule should also include limiting screen time, even as we depend on technology for classroom instruction and socializing during orders to stay inside, Mason said.

She spoke as a guest of the Northwest Passages Virtual Forum on Tuesday afternoon, and the entirety of her interview can be seen at

“It is critical to identify a time when we just need to shut it off,” said Mason, who previously noticed screen time as a disruption to her teenage patients’ sleep habits. “Children or adolescents who might be attending to schoolwork after mom and dad or parents are home from work, they do need to still have that structure of no screen time after 8 o’clock.”

Mason also said it’s important to talk to children about their fears and concerns, including the cancellation of the rest of the school year. She encouraged parents to let students who might be upset name the emotions they’re feeling.

“It’s a really excellent opportunity to give them what’s called emotion coaching, which as parents is our role in guiding their emotional development through this stage of their life,” she said. “And so naming those feelings is a really an important step when children are irritated or are expressing a lot of frustration about not going back to school, just helping them to identify what that means.”

The Northwest Passages Virtual Forum series will continue Wednesday at 1 p.m. with a conversation with Washington Commerce Director Lisa Brown.

Author Kip Hill conducted the virtual interview with Anne Mason for the Northwest Passages forum on Tuesday.