Working together to make the journey a little easier
Perspective | Walking the resilience road: From overwhelmed to compassion-in-action
- Excerpts from an article by Elizabeth DeKonty
April 14, 2020
Undoubtedly, the social emotional learning and mental health needs of kids are greater now than ever before. We know many kids are facing a lack of basic needs at home or are in homes with safety risks related to abuse, neglect, or domestic violence.
Supporting social-emotional learning at home
When kids are dysregulated, it is much harder for them to access the thinking part of their brain to learn. While in the middle of so much change, anxiety, and uncertainty right now, it is even more important to make sure we keep SEL at the forefront with our students (and families). Here are some ideas to continue SEL even while kids are at home.
- Sending home short SEL lessons or creating online SEL lessons. If your school is using a curriculum like Second Step, keep the lessons coming. If not, here are some places with great ideas for lessons you can share with your students: CASEL, Second Step, and Conscious Discipline.
- Hosting or creating content for kids to do morning meetings on their own at home — either with their families or virtually with the class.
- Doing virtual “temperature checks” with kids — using tools like a feelings thermometer or the Zones of Regulation to check in with students on how they are feeling each day.
- Share with parents and caregivers ideas for setting up a “calm-down space” in their house that is similar to what many schools have in classrooms — a designated space with different fidget toys, comforting items like stuffed animals, and self-regulation activities they know their child likes.
- Send home online mindfulness resources that have simple, already-created videos specifically for students to practice mindfulness skills: GoNoodle, Headspace, Smiling Mind, Stop, Breathe & Think.
Staff self-care and wellness
We’ve all heard analogies like: if our cups aren’t full, we can’t fill up the cups of others. This is true now more than ever before. It is critical for educators to continue (or start!) taking time for their own self-care and reaching out to connect with their colleagues. Here are a few simple ideas to get you started.
- Take time to practice self-care each day with something you enjoy — reading a book, calling a friend, exercising and walking, cooking a good meal.
- Think about what your own “calm-down” strategies would be — how do you self-regulate when you feel upset or stressed? Deep breathing and mindfulness practices are two great ways to consider, and there are many apps offering free accounts right now for just this purpose — the Calm app, Headspace, Smiling Mind, and Stop, Breathe & Think.
- Stay connected with your friends and colleagues — call a friend or set up a virtual hangout. Create a buddy system with your colleagues so everyone has someone checking in on them every day or two, and think about how to create a virtual community with your school staff. Simple, fun ideas could include having staff post their favorite meme to social media, or for a virtual staff meeting, ask staff to wear their favorite t-shirt and share why it’s their favorite.
- Get outside when you can.
- Limit your news intake — while it is important to stay informed, too much can increase stress and anxiety.
- Focus on what you can control — habits like hand washing and social distancing, staying active, and finding ways to be a helper (from a distance!) for your friends, family, and community.
- Draw your attention to the good moments in your day — what we give our attention to grows!
- Consider an initiative such as “Wellness Wednesday” or “Feel Good Friday” that is one day of the week with limited academic content and instead is more focused on self-care and wellness for staff and students. (What a great idea!)
Maintaining relationships with students
Research shows more and more the importance of a caring adult in a child’s life, and in stressful times such as these, this is even more important. School staff have already been sharing creative ways that they’ve been working to communicate and maintain relationships with their kids.
- Creating short videos of themselves to post on their Google Classroom so kids can see and hear them.
- Making calls home to families.
- Hosting “virtual office hours” for kids to call in.
- Setting up virtual restorative community circles with their kids, similar to the circles they were doing in school.
- Starting any academic lessons or work with some kind of connection moment before diving into academic content — something as simple as asking everyone how they are doing and feeling that day
- Be creative! Virutal spirit week? Have students share a picture of themselves? A period to participate in a virtual game?
Helping kids and families maintain a sense of structure and routine
All kids — and especially those experiencing stress and trauma — do much better with structure, routine, and clear expectations. They want to know what their day will look like and what is expected of them. This helps them feel emotionally and physically safe and secure.
Any “normal” routine for all students has been totally turned upside down right now, so anything educators can do to support families in creating some “new normals” and a sense of routine at home will help kids with their stress and anxiety in the midst of so much change.
A few ideas:
- Sending home sample schedules for families to follow each day that are similar to the school day — starting with a morning meeting, having a lunch time, and definitely having extended recess outside, if possible. And don’t forget time for art and music!
- Help families think about how they could set up a designated small space for kids to use for school work that is separate from their play areas in the house.
- Keep any activities, lessons, or school assignments simple and straightforward with short and clear directions.
- Give yourself grace when set routines or schedules don’t go according to plan. We are all making this up as we go along, and you are doing great job