All These Feelings | Focus on Relationships and Mental Health as We Plan for School Re-entry
April 23, 2020
When we received word on March 13th that LSU and Louisiana schools would be closing for several weeks, I do not think any of us knew what to expect. You may have had a period of intense stress while you and your family figured out how to manage our new reality. Here we are six weeks later, still trying to figure out what to do. It turns out that the sprint to move classes online and adjust to a new way of living has progressed into a marathon, and some of us may be feeling exhausted and overwhelmed, while others may be settling into our new routine and regaining some of the energy that we felt was lost when we first started social distancing.
It turns out that the sprint to move classes online and adjust to a new way of living has progressed into a marathon.
Our feelings are natural.
The good news is that all of these feelings (and everything in between) are completely natural. You may notice I did not say “normal.” As we all seek a return to “normal,” I want to gently let you know, that our lives are going to be different now. Expecting and hoping for our lives to go back to what they were before this pandemic, may actually be preventing us from adjusting to what our lives look like right now. Humans will always seek the familiar to give us comfort, especially in challenging times, so it is natural to want to go back to a life that seems more fulfilling and easier than it may be right now. Perhaps now is the time to take stock of what was working for us, and what was not. In particular, those of us in the field of education have a great opportunity right now.
Perhaps now is the time to take stock of what was working for us, and what was not. In particular, those of us in the field of education have a great opportunity right now.
What will your school re-entry look like?
As we look to the re-entry school process, there are a few things to keep in mind. Everyone has been through an incredibly stressful, if not traumatic, experience. Academic remediation may be on the forefront of educators’ minds, but I want to encourage a shift in thought. Trauma and stress impact our brain’s capacity to learn. We must first address the mental health needs of our community. This means investing in our relationships, our health, and our community. Our entire community. If we do not make room for healing relationships, our students will indeed fall further behind academically.
Schools are an essential and stabilizing force in our recovering communities. Creating safe learning environments where children can learn and grow while also providing much needed connection, will be the foundation for our recovery.
Right now, we are hurting. Whether we are grieving loved ones or a way of life, we are experiencing loss, but our history tells us that we will come together to heal. Here in Louisiana, we are no strangers to catastrophic events like hurricanes, floods, and tornadoes, to name a few; and perhaps because of these challenges, we are resilient, gritty, and community-focused people. Schools are an essential and stabilizing force in our recovering communities. Creating safe learning environments where children can learn and grow while also providing much needed connection, will be the foundation for our recovery. If we prioritize relationships and healing in our return to school, our communities will not only be stronger emotionally, but academically, as well. How do we approach this task? There has been a great deal of research on the importance of trauma-sensitive schools. Below you will find some wonderful resources to help you to build strong relationship-focused programs in your schools.
You will also find links and resources curated by the school counselors from University Laboratory School. LSU is fortunate to have an exceptional K12 laboratory school on campus and opportunities for our programs to intersect often. These resources will help you to take care of yourselves and your families right now, while putting into practice some great prevention practices.
We are all doing the best we can to figure out how to move forward. If we lean on
each other a little more, we may find the burden is easier to carry.
|Resources for Trauma-Sensitive Schools|
|The Invisible Classroom: Relationships, Neuroscience & Mindfulness in School by Kirke Olson|
|Helping Traumatized Children Learn | traumasensitiveschools.org|
|Download a free copy of Helping Traumatized Children Learn|
|Additional Resources | A Report and Policy Agenda & Creating and Advocating for Trauma-Sensitive Schools|
Tip Sheets | Elementary, Middle, and High School Students
I think the majority of us have been good sports and were up to the initial challenge of working remotely and making on-line learning happen for our children for a few weeks. It is not easy to balance it all: work, school, food, family, structure, screen time, laundry, bills, and safety. It can be difficult to keep it all together and do it well, especially for the ones of us with high expectations. Now as we prepare for the remainder of the school year at home combined with mass global uncertainty, it is understandable for both adult and child anxiety to skyrocket.
Lauren Eglin, counselor for grades K-5
There is no doubt that we are facing one of the most stressful times in history. Seemingly overnight, parents are being “hired” to help facilitate their children’s instruction while possibly working full-time or even facing a sudden job loss. Students are being asked to display time management and self-discipline skills that may not be fully developed. Meanwhile, many educators are delivering instruction entirely remotely for the first time. No matter how you look at it, this has the potential to be a recipe for disaster.
Angela Murray, counselor for grades 6-9
For all of you high school seniors, and really all teens and young adults, the current situation is beyond disappointing. The last weeks of the school year, especially senior year, should be jam packed with so many events for which you have anxiously awaited. You may even feel like you are in a state of mourning right now for all the plans you thought were locked into place and memories you were looking forward to making. When your world feels upside down, how do you hang in there, handle grief, and let those around you reach in to provide a hand? What can you do to help yourself feel better?
Kristy Gremillion, counselor for grades 10-12
Here are 10 quick tips for remaining healthy, happy, and productive during extended physical distancing.
Lauren Eglin, counselor for grades K-5
Written by: Dr. Stephanie Eberts
Stephanie Eberts, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Professional Practice at Louisiana State University and the Coordinator of the School Counseling Concentration. Dr. Eberts received her undergraduate degree in Foreign Language Education from the University of Georgia. After graduation, she spent three years living and working in San Francisco prior to starting a master’s program in Professional Counseling at Loyola University in New Orleans. Dr. Eberts worked as a school counselor (at both the Elementary and Middle school level) in New Orleans for six years prior to returning to school. During her doctoral training she worked with Safe and Drug Free Schools of Gwinnett County in Georgia for three years. After completing her PhD program at Georgia State University in 2010, she moved to Austin to work at Texas State University. After five years as at Texas State University, she returned to her home state of Louisiana to work at LSU. Dr. Eberts’ areas of interest include school counseling, group counseling, play therapy, and trauma and crisis counseling.
Tip sheets written by:
Lauren Eglin | Counselor, grades K-5
Angela Murray | Counselor, grades 6-9
Kristy Gremillion | Counselor, grades 10-12