The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the normal learning environment for children over the past two years, delaying the learning of vital social and emotional skills typically taught in classrooms.
Many younger students, those in kindergarten to grade 5, struggle with skills such as emotional regulation, understanding their emotions, interacting with other children, social anxiety, and a host of other issues. other skills that accompany interaction with their peers.
Although most Indiana students have been back in a typical classroom since the last school year, that doesn’t mean that all of the social and emotional skills these kids missed have also returned.
Addie Angelov is the executive director of the Paramount Health Data Project, an Indiana-based company that takes data collected from schools on various things related to child well-being and uses it to help schools and students improve their academic performance. .
Angelov told IndyStar that the news children have seen over the past two years about record amounts of job losses, deaths and illnesses has created a lot of trauma for children and a general sense of fear of returning. in the society.
“I think it’s going to take us several years to get used to our new normal,” Angelov said. “I sort of describe it like we had a snow globe and we shook it with COVID and now all the little bits are settling to the bottom.”
Emily Dills, a social-emotional learning coach for Washington Township Schools, doesn’t see the situation as completely hopeless, however.
Along with helping teach social-emotional skills, Dills told IndyStar that she also teaches her students about how their brains are constantly developing and that kids are ultimately very resilient.
“The outside world has changed, but the inside of the kids hasn’t changed,” Dills said. “Children are children.”
Here’s what parents experiencing this can do:
Give them more structure
Parents can help their children learn social and emotional skills simply by giving them more structure in their lives, Dills told IndyStar.
Limiting social media, spending lots of time playing outside, creating a predictable bedtime and wake-up routine are all simple steps Dills recommends parents take to improve their child’s overall mental health. .
speak it out loud
Another part of Dills’ practice is to help children work through their emotions by talking about them out loud, asking them how a certain incident made them feel, how would it make others feel, and how they should react when they feel a negative or overwhelming emotion.
“Most kids just want to be heard and feel like they’re seen by the adults in the room,” Dills said.
Use affirmative language
Dills also models positive behavior around her students, such as saying thank you and using affirmative language when a student politely asks for more snacks or when someone lets others play a game with them.
Limit social networks
Angleov suggests taking an easygoing approach by limiting their child’s social media while introducing them to more in-person activities and playtime with other children.
“Parents know their kids, but they also have to be thoughtful and not just throw them in the deep end,” Angelov said.
Contact a school counselor or social worker
Contacting a school’s social worker, counselor, or administrative office to find additional resources is also an option for parents looking for resources within their child’s school.
Unfortunately, not all elementary schools have a school counselor, but ISCA Executive Director Allen Hill suggests parents contact their district office to see what mental health services they provide specifically for their district.
Then contact the insurance, the pediatrician
The next step Hill suggests is for parents to contact their insurance provider or pediatrician to find out what resources they would suggest.
Jennie Beutler, president of the Indiana School Social Work Association, urges parents to contact their school principal or their child’s teacher if there is no social worker or counselor available at their school.
“I’ve never spoken to a parent who wishes they hadn’t reached out after doing so, if you have any concerns please speak to your schools,” Beutler told IndyStar.
Support mental health
Parents can contact their local community mental health center, which has one in each county.
Dills suggests that any parents in Washington Township who may see their child struggling with social-emotional skills or who need additional help can contact her directly by emailing her at [email protected] in.us.
The National Education Association also has many resources on supporting children’s mental health, including a tip sheet on how to support children’s transition to full-time school. For more information, visit nea.org.
Use statewide resources
Project Aware is a program created in 2018 through a partnership between the Indiana Department of Education and the Indiana Division of Mental Health and Addiction. It aims to facilitate partnerships between local education organizations and local mental health providers to provide comprehensive mental health care to school-aged youth.
They have resources for parents and teachers, including lesson plans and online training for teachers on how to implement more social and emotional learning practices in school settings.
Project Aware also offers activity guides and at-home checklists that parents can use to build healthy habits and coping techniques. For more information, visit projectawarein.org.
The Indiana School Counselor Association also has a list of resources parents can use at home to help with social-emotional learning, as well as calming activities and other mental health aids. For more information, visit isca.wildapricot.org.
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