The COVID-19 pandemic severely affected every sphere of the world, especially educational institutions. The effects range from the quality and nature of the instruction they have received to their social and emotional well-being for students. It doesn’t matter whether the students are attending school physically or engaging in remote learning; K-12 leaders must plan to cater to the social, emotional, and academic needs.
Many children have seen and heard frightening information about the pandemic on TV or online. Some of them know people who have been infected with the disease, while others have family members who may be infected to may have died of it. These experiences, including the anxiety that comes from uncertainty about the future, may cause feelings of grief or trauma.
Students who have these strong emotional responses find it challenging to focus on their schoolwork or completing lessons. They may have feelings of hopelessness or depression. They need opportunities to regain a sense of confidence and personal safety or assistance with self-regulation. Trauma-informed therapy and other trauma-sensitive teaching strategies will help students focus on their studies despite the pandemic’s effects.
The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) has provided guidelines on how K-12 educators and administrators can use trauma-informed therapy and other programs to help students amidst the pandemic.
Using these guidelines as well as recommendations from the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), here are four important strategies that schools can use in helping their students deal with the mental and emotional effects of the pandemic:
Five Strategies For Helping Students Succeed Amid the Pandemic
1. Set Up Clear Routines
Students tend to feel at ease in an environment where there are predictable routines and activities in place. It significantly reduces any feelings of helplessness they may have and gives them something to rely on.
It’s usual for even well-established plans to go awry sometimes. Ensure that you explain to them the reason for breaking a routine and show them why it’s important. Maintaining communication will ease and give them confidence that the adults around them are concerned about their safety.
2. Allow them to have some level of control.
Giving students the freedom to make choices such as where to sit, how to finish a task, or what method to use in communication (writing a poem, making a picture book or video) has been proven to not only be an effective instructional method that adheres to the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles for meeting the needs of all learners; it also gives them the ability to control some parts of their lives. This is another efficient way to reduce or eliminate any feelings of helplessness they might have. It also enables them to feel accepted and valued as a member of a learning group.
3. Build strong relationships.
Although it is vital to have structure and high expectations for your students, child psychologists have discovered that students fare best if they are confident that their teachers are as interested in their well-being as their behavior and academic performance.
According to the NCTSN, “Be flexible and empathetic when it comes to holding students accountable. “Show appreciation for students’ efforts to complete assignments. Remember that students may be dealing with many different home life situations while trying to maintain their academics. Students may feel embarrassed to share that their situation impacts their ability to complete assignments. They may also be feeling vulnerable to sharing their home with their classmates online.”
4. Establish an atmosphere of security and hope.
It’s true that the pandemic news is everywhere and cannot be easily avoided; educators can avoid talking about the pandemic’s effects in front of the students. They can also advise the students’ parents against watching the news with their children and stick to their regular family routines. Educators can also share inspiring stories of communities that have suffered similar situations and emerged from them stronger and better than before.
5. Teach students self-regulation skills
Most students are still coming to grips with their emotions. They may not fully understand the various feelings that they are experiencing or know how to control them.
Mindfulness activities are very effective in helping students understand and control their emotions. Educators can teach children how to practice deep breathing meditation and visualization.
The mental and emotional health of students must be protected and taken care of. At Intensive Therapy Retreats, we offer resources catered towards taking care of students’ mental health and providing parents and teachers with the right resources in tackling mental health issues.