There’s so much information coming at us from so many different directions right now. Not only are we trying to keep up with news about this pandemic and how to keep our families safe, but we’re experiencing disruptions to our social lives and our jobs. The cherry on top of this COVID-19 sundae is that many parents are now being asked to step into what is, for many, a brand new role: distance learning facilitator. (Make sure you put that on your resumes from now on! 😉) Parents, students and educators are ALL scrambling to learn new routines and new technologies with very little – if any – warning, guidance or training.
Recently, the Twitter feed for @teachergoals.org posted something that really resonated. When I feel myself getting overwhelmed by the “tsunami of stuff” coming at from me all directions, I revisit this tweet:
Since this blog is written by a bunch of psychologists, it’s probably no surprise that student mental health is our passion. However, we’re SCHOOL psychologists, which means that we also focus on supporting the academic and functional needs of our students.
There’s a lot of research out there supporting the fact that learning is interrupted by psychological factors, such as stress and anxiety. Check out this 4-minute Ted Talk on “How Stress Affects the Brain” (and, if you are interested, there are lesson guides for the video here that could be used with our students):
We’d probably all agree that stress and anxiety are major factors in our lives these days. While we share the concerns that our families have about the disruption of reading, writing and math instruction for our students, we want to remind everyone that student mental health must be a priority – perhaps now more than ever. We’re not the only ones paying attention to this right now; here are some additional resources:
- This article on “A Therapist’s 5 Tips for Prioritizing Your Family’s Mental Health During the COVID-19 Quarantine” has a subtitle stating: “Academics is not what your kids need most now. What your kids need is you.” We couldn’t agree more.
- The Edmonton Sun recently published this article entitled “COVID-19: Student mental health should come before academics during crisis.”
- In this handout, the National Child Traumatic Stress Network offers the following advice: “Modify your daily activities to meet the current reality of the situation and focus on what you can accomplish.”
- Our National Association of School Psychologists recently updated their information for parents in this “Helping Children Cope With Changes Resulting From COVID-19” resource (available in both English and Spanish). The organization notes that “none of this easy, but it helps to stay focused on what is possible in order to reinforce a sense of control and to reassure children that they are okay, and that the situation will get better.”
- Colorado Public Radio shared this piece entitled “Lower Your Expectations, And Other Parenting Advice For The Era Of COVID-19.” It includes the advice that “parents must focus on what they can control and realize that right now, in the middle of a pandemic, it is not the time for parenting perfection.” This article also contains some great user-friendly tips and strategies for dealing with anxiety.
- In this interview with Dr. Jenny Radesky, a Developmental Behavioral Pediatrician on Michigan Public Radio, parents are advised: “Don’t try to out-school school.” Instead, Dr. Radesky advises a focus on ensuring stability and safety, while gaining life-skills about resilience.
- In this blog entitled “MENTAL HEALTH (KIDS AND PARENTS) COMES BEFORE ACADEMICS,” the author writes: “Protect the emotional well-being of the family first. Academics are secondary to that.” (Are you seeing a pattern here yet? 😃) The author, a Licensed Independent Social Worker (LICSW) and mother of 3, references Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs and we’re sharing it again here, because this model from 1954 is very relevant in 2020:
In this new COVID-19 distance-learning world, we hope that our fellow educators, parents and students will all allow themselves a bit of grace, compassion and understanding in knowing that we ARE all working together to do what is best for our children right now – even in those moments when it may not feel that way. These are strange and uncharted waters. Manage your expectations and be kind to yourselves and to one another.