Supporting Students’ Mental Health and Wellbeing During the Pandemic

Cross Country Education
February 25, 2022 05:01 AM (GMT-04:00)
Educator Resources

Best Practices for School Psychologists

It has been three long years since students have experienced a typical school year. Unfortunately, the collective impacts on their social, emotional and academic development can’t be fully known, certainly not in the short term. But there are measures school psychologists and other educational professionals can take now to help students regain confidence and find their footing at school and beyond.

Impacts of COVID and School Closures on Children and Adolescents

First, it’s critical to note that although we see general patterns in how COVID has impacted kids, each child’s situation is different. Some children and teens will have fared well, while others may have severe and lasting social, emotional and psychological impacts.

School psychologists should be on alert for an array of issues, which, according to the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine (UIC), can include:

  • Lasting impacts of social isolation from not seeing friends or school staff
  • Poor self-mastery, low self-esteem, feeling unable to accomplish tasks or develop new skills
  • Incomplete assignments, inability to focus, low school attendance (due to internet access, housing stability, parent availability, language barriers, food insecurity, etc.)
  • Feelings of uncertainty, lack of safety and concern about family’s wellbeing (due to constantly changing information about the pandemic including COVID guidelines, new variants, school closures, shelter in place protocols, etc.)

Further, the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) advises educational professionals to watch for students who have experienced or who are currently experiencing:

  • The death or illness of someone close to them
  • Financial, housing or food insecurities
  • Homelessness and worsening of economic gaps
  • Child abuse or neglect
  • Parental substance abuse
  • Chronic stress, trauma or prior mental health issues
  • Challenges transitioning from virtual to in-person learning (and vice versa)
  • The stress of entering a new school or transitioning to elementary, middle or high school
  • Impacts of being separated from extended family during the pandemic
  • Impacts of missing out on extracurricular activities like sports, music, clubs, graduation ceremonies or performances
  • Stigma or racism related to COVID, which may affect students because they:

14 Best Practices to Support Students’ Health and Wellbeing

For an extensive list of best practices to use during this time, school psychologists can visit the NASP Resource Center and UIC’s COVID-19 Best Practices for Trauma Intervention or consult their school districts’ guidelines. In the meantime, here are 14 best practices you can implement now.

  1. Create specific strategies to help kids, their families and school staff transition back to in-person learning.
  2. Set up periodic check-ins with students, especially those who remain in hybrid or virtual school, those who have had attendance problems, and those identified as high risk.
  3. Ensure there is a program in place to identify and refer students and families who need support and services to the appropriate school or community resources.
  4. Encourage or lead classroom or schoolwide events designed to help students process their experiences and learn coping strategies.
  5. Be aware of the impacts face coverings and social distancing have on social, emotional, academic and language development.
  6. Do not assume that lack of motivation, poor social skills or disobedience necessarily represent purposeful insubordination; view behaviors from a trauma-informed perspective.
  7. Encourage staff to embed social and emotional learning into academic curricula across all settings.
  8. Ask the school administration and community to host make-up missed events (prom, graduation, traditions, orientations, open houses, etc.).
  9. Create new opportunities for cooperation, team building and school community development (school garden, volunteering, etc.).
  10. Implement a peer support program, especially for those transitioning back to or to a new school.
  11. Encourage schoolwide routines involving all staff members to greet students and make them feel welcome and confident at school.
  12. Ensure practices and communications with students and parents are culturally appropriate and responsive.
  13. Conduct surveys and reviews of prior years during the pandemic and use data to address service needs and areas for improvement.
  14. Hold faculty trainings or webinars on how to ensure students feel safe and supported (topics like mental health, wellbeing, self-talk, social interactions, academic pressures, false information, home life, COVID safety protocols, etc.).

Thanks for reading our resource on best practices to help students thrive during this trying time. We hope you found it a useful addition to your school psychologist toolkit! For more helpful resources, visit our Educational Professionals blog.

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