The unique circumstances that we are currently presented with in supporting limiting the spread of Covid 19 have forced me to revisit a number of practices that I have been taking for granted. Along with advice about social distancing, appropriate hygiene, and maintaining a healthy diet, I have also been more diligent in ensuring the promotion and protection of my own mental health. In doing this, I wish to take this opportunity to highlight some of the measures that you can take in supporting the mental health of your child and yourself. As a role model to the young people that you support it is vital that you promote patterns of healthy living in your home environment.
The methods in supporting young people in the event of a school closure are not unique. The current climate, however, has forced us to revisit these concepts and practices. In the event of a school closure, please ensure that the following principles guide you in supporting the young people in your care.
Psychologists say the one thing most associated with emotional resilience is social connection and support. Please refer to the Damascus College Remote Learning Plan to ensure that your child remains connected to the school environment. While it is important to continue academic progress during this time, so too is the routine of Teacher Advisor time. All our TA’s are working toward a plan where TA forums and online chats will be a regular part of the day. Birthdays will still be celebrated, individual achievements noted, daily messages delivered, and the resilience diary/journal discussed.
The maintaining of relationships, within the parameters set by the Government, still need to continue. While you do need to be mindful of online time, please be sensitive that there will be some anxiety surrounding social isolation.
Maintaining a Routine
Developing a routine of remote learning can be difficult, however adhering to a program that reflects similarities to a school day should be promoted. TA will be looking to connect early in the day for their check in to ensure ongoing connectedness. Working towards a routine will allow students to have control of what’s going to happen next; a useful way to keep the momentum flowing. Please be mindful that a normal routine should also include a time for exercise and recreation.
Transparent and Open Conversations
Be mindful of media saturation during a heightened period. The young people that you are supporting are digitally connected, suggesting they will be bombarded with messages about COVID-19. It is important to allay any fears or concerns with open conversations. Consider the following:
• Young people will react to what you say and how you say it. They will pick up cues from the conversations you have with them and with others.
• Give children information that is truthful and appropriate for the age and developmental level of the child.
• Talk to children about how some stories on COVID-19 on the Internet and social media may be based on rumours and inaccurate information.
• Role model good behaviour- if young people are witnessing panic buying, discrimination, panic or overreaction, they too will behave accordingly.
• Reinforce appropriate home hygiene- openly support Government-regulated practices. Do not mock these, remind young ones that this time will pass and we all have an obligation to support these initiatives.
Wellbeing Support at Damascus: A quick snapshot
Teacher Advisors are encouraged to make contact with their TA group daily. We would encourage any concern that a student or parent may have be directed to the Teacher Advisor. If this needs to be escalated, then the Teacher Advisor will ensure that this happens.
House Leaders will be in contact with their House Group regularly.
This will most likely be in the form of a recorded or live presentation. House Leaders are motivated to remain connected and continue the spirit that is part of their House.
House Leaders can also be contacted directly via email by students for pastoral/wellbeing support. The House Leader and student will then establish what the most appropriate form of communication is.
Classroom teachers have been instructed on measures to ensure students are comfortable with their mode of curriculum delivery. If they sense a wellbeing concern with a student, they are working with they are to contact the appropriate House Leader.
School Counselling Team
It is recognised that like Teachers and Teacher Advisors, School Counsellors may be caring for their own children during a time of school closure. Supporting clients will require some flexibility of delivery.
• During a time of school closure, the counsellor’s priority will be to check in with those clients who are deemed as high risk. These online appointments would occur in a time that would be suitable for the client and counsellor using Microsoft Teams.
• Students are welcome to self-refer for appointments for counselling. Services will be determined through a triage process as defined by the councillors. At times this will require the need for an online session or alternative delivery.
• Where appointments have been made that these be restricted to 30 minutes in length.
Written by Mr. Andy Robertson - Assistant Principal Student Wellbeing