Supporting Children's Emotional Well-Being During School Re-entry
As we look forward to having many of our schools open again for classes for the first time since March, we realize that students may be feeling more anxious brought on by the uncertainty of the pandemic. Things are going to look a bit different on school campuses for a while: temperature checks, wearing masks, socially distancing, re-imagined classroom settings, etc. To better support students' emotional well-being during these uncertain times, I offer a few recommendations for parents and educators:
1. Permission to feel. One way to validate them emotionally is to ask them how they are feeling and taking the time to listen to what they say. We can give them “permission to feel” what they are feeling. We can let them know that here is no right or wrong way for them to feel during these trying times. Simply lending an ear helps.
2. Provide a nurturing environment where self-care is the main priority. We can take better care of the children in our lives by taking care of ourselves as well. They mimic what we do. We can set a good example by engaging in self-care activities and rituals with them.
3. Structure and Predictability. Children intrinsically crave structure and predictability. Their worlds are upside down right now because their schedules have been uprooted. Anything that we can do to keep their routines as structured as possible will help them cope better with the current situation.
4. Provide Them With “Calming” Resources. Offering these types of resources will not only de-stress them, but it will also teach them important emotional regulation skills over time. (We will be posting these weekly).
5. Writing it Down. Journaling is a great way to help organize our thoughts, and sometimes it can be a wonderfully therapeutic practice. In addition, getting children into the habit of writing on a daily basis is a good thing.
6. This is temporary. Being honest with children by letting them know that this is a difficult time but it will pass teaches them how to be resilient in tough times. It also gives them hope and reinforces the belief that difficult situations are temporary. There is no “new normal.”
7. Talk to their counselors. Schools have mental health professionals on staff. Encourage your child to utilize school counselors and/or social workers when needed.
8. Polarized Belief Systems. We are living in times of competing polarized belief systems (especially during an election year). Most news is fear based. It is helpful if we monitor the time our children watch the news. Spending an excessive amount of time watching the news and consuming social media only heightens anxiety.
9. Get them outside and moving. It is great for the bodies and their brains.
10. We can't stop the waves, but we can learn to surf. One of the greatest life lessons we can teach children is that we can't always control what happens to us, but we can learn to control our response to what happens us. To quote the old zen proverb, "let go or be dragged."
11. We will be posting more free electronic resources and information sessions reguarly at https://www.lausannelearning.com/sel. Check them out.
Greg Graber, the author of Slow Your Roll- Mindfulness for Fast Times, teaches mindfulness and Social & Emotional (SEL) skills to schools, top sports teams, and various organizations around the world. Graber, a frequent keynote speaker, currently serves as the Director of SEL at Lausanne Collegiate School. He may be contacted through his website: www.greggraber.com