Education

Parents, Teachers Help Students Face Emotional Issues as Schools Open

As our students return to school for the 2020-21 term, it’s more important than ever for teachers and parents to work together. Parents may see behaviors at home that teachers aren’t seeing in school and vice versa.

That reality is, things are different this year. It could be one of those times in life that we may have to sacrifice a bit. Sometimes we are asked to give up things we counted on and expected. Sometimes life doesn’t turn out as we planned. It’s okay to be disappointed. It’s even okay to be angry. But it isn’t okay to demand we be given something just because we’ve come to expect it.

Keeping open lines of communication with each other (parents and teachers) will create consistency in working with students who have emotional or behavioral struggles and to minimize misunderstandings.

Help each other with a plan that helps all to communicate regularly, especially with families who need more frequent contact than others so that they’re in the loop. What is going on in the classroom and at home?

Early school closures across the United States last spring were intended to keep students safe during the pandemic, but for many, it’s ushered in a different set of dangers: anxiety, depression and other serious mental health conditions.

Even before COVID-19, about 15 percent of school-age kids were thought to have a mental health or behavioral disorder, and schools were having a hard time providing enough mental health support.

“Unfortunately school mental health is chronically underfunded and understaffed,” said Sharon Hoover, co-director of the National Center for School Mental Health at the University of Maryland. “The student to student support staff ratios are not what they should be, so a lot does fall on the shoulders of our educators when we don’t have the proper student instructional support personnel in place.”

Parents should be particularly understanding of the potential extraordinary issues and challenges educators face.

 Tens of thousands of people experienced serious mental health symptoms in July as the COVID-19 pandemic continued to take a huge toll on the mental health of the nation, according to Mental Health America (MHA).

MHA, which has been using its online mental health screening program – www.mhascreening.org – to track the real-time impact of the pandemic on mental health conditions, reported that more than a quarter million people took a mental health screening in July.

That was the largest monthly number in the six years of the program, which has now reached more than 5.5 million people with tools and resources to learn more about their mental health conditions and improve or maintain their mental health.

 “In July, more than 72,000 of our screeners indicated moderate to severe symptoms of depression, more than 39,000 had moderate to severe systems of anxiety, and more than 19,000 had symptoms of psychosis – the highest numbers we have ever seen,” said MHA President and CEO, Paul Gionfriddo.

“Collectively, since the end of February more than 263,000 people over and above what we would have expected have screened moderate to severe for depression or anxiety,” he added. “This reflects how pervasive mental health conditions are becoming in the general population as a result of the pandemic.”

Screening respondents cite loneliness and isolation, relationship problems, current events, and, increasingly, financial problems as reasons for their mental health conditions at the present time. 

MHA offers these tips for teachers:

1. Start fresh. 

2. Draw on past experiences with students, but don’t necessarily rely on them. 

3. Put yourself in the right frame of mind. 

4. Expect some disorganization and forgetfulness.

5. Reduce classroom stress. 

6. Look into evidence-based programs that support social and emotional learning. 

7. Find the good and praise it. 

8. Be familiar with options for accommodations.

9. Avoid embarrassment. 

10. Exercise compassion. 

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