As parents and children adjust to school closures and the new methods of learning at home, school counselors are hard at work supporting them. Here’s what two had to say about making the most of learning from home.
Counselors and teachers have been in touch with students and parents through different means of communication. We want to remind families that we’re still here to help them and we are making appointments through phone or video chat services.
We understand that many parents are overwhelmed at the prospect of educating their kids while also maintaining their home, continuing to work, and the stress of COVID-19. We want to help them understand that other household priorities might take precedence over learning at this time. Older students may be caregivers for younger children while parents work and that’s okay. You don’t have to be perfect at everything. Your children’s teachers are available to teacher your children. This is a setback and we (teachers, counselors, administrators, students, and families) will work through it together.
High school seniors are feeling especially stressed, missing out on prom, graduation ceremonies, final goodbyes to their peers and the end of that era. They’re now just as isolated as adults are, and it’s critical to support them though this. Speak with them honestly about the uncertainty we’re facing and their feelings about the situation, the importance of physical distancing, etc.
Some students will struggle to be motivated to learn at home. This is a huge shift from their typical learning environment, so that’s to be expected. Seek out educational videos about the subjects they’re studying, ask teachers for tips, find ways to maintain their mental and physical well-being.
Please be patient with schools. We’re working hard to serve you and adjust to school closures, but not everything will run smoothly at first.
– Sarah Skemp is a counselor at Lake Havasu High School and serves on the board of directors for the Arizona School Counselors Association.
I’m recommending that caregivers do three things:
- Maintain a routine. Kids do best when they know what to expect, and this is an unanticipated situation. Having a schedule – even a loose one – will help with schooling, too.
- Be a role model. Maintain a calm demeanor and be honest when your kids ask questions. They’ll feed off of your energy.
- Validate their feelings. This is a stressful time and it’s okay to acknowledge that. Explain how the family will stay safe and what to expect for the future.
To help motivate children to continue learning from home, tap into what they loved most about school. Some schools are continuing to offer specials, like P.E. and art, and it might even help to know that they’ll see friends if online learning is available. If you’re still struggling, reach out to teachers or counselors for ideas on keeping students engaged. Counselors are here to help – we’re doing one-on-one check-ins with kids, meetings with parents, and whatever else we need to do to provide the support that families need.
Watch for major changes in behavior from your kids. Children express depression and anxiety differently than adults, so it won’t look like it would for a spouse or co-worker. Children may become unusually whiny or disruptive.
As teachers get online learning up and running, our district will also be offering opportunities for social emotional learning. For example, before the school closure, we were studying emotion management – what emotions are, how to process strong emotions, and ways of calming. These skills are vital for youth to continue practicing.
Most districts have added a section to their website that outlines resources for families. They cover everything from educational sites to crisis lines and mental health helps. This is a new process for all of us, so please be patient and supportive with educators. It will take time, but we’ll get there!
Make time for outdoor and physical activity, where it’s safe to do so. Getting active is great for mental health and stress relief, for both children and adults.
– Britney Griffith is a counselor at Patterson Elementary School in Mesa Public Schools.
- Counselor Corner: How To Support Your Child During COVID-19
- Self-Care for Teens
- ABC-15: Despite school closures and heavy caseloads, school counselors are finding ways to stay connected with students
- Arizona Department of Education compiled resources to help families during this challenging time, including online education resources, mental health resources and updates on testing, and more.