If you need extra support or help please reach out to a professional for expert advice.
While returning back to school and university will be welcomed and exciting for many, some students may feel particularly anxious and worried about this prospect. The reality that students are facing with going back to school is that everything is unknown. Students may be social distant in the classrooms, split up into smaller groups and not with friends or worried about the spread of the virus. This can trigger a lot of stress, anxiety and affect student’s mental health.
How can we help students to cope with their anxiety and deal with the complicated emotions they may be facing when going back to school in this new normal.
It is important to acknowledge and be aware that all students have had different experiences over the past months. Some students may know less than others, but being transparent and clear about what is going on and what will happen at school and university can help students mentally prepare and be ready for any changes that may occur.
Use online resources to support students, for example, The Sesame Street has some great resources for younger children on dealing with health emergencies, for older students check out Young Scot. Although it is important not to dwell on or shock students too much about the negatives, just providing some clarity can help them cope with the situation better.
Even though we must acknowledge the hardships of this situation, encourage students to think of the positive things to come out of this current situation. This can be applied to life in general and help them to deal with any negative circumstances in life.
What is mindfulness you may be thinking? Well, it is the ability to be fully present and engaged at the moment. It is something that takes practice and can be integrated into the classroom easily. Some of the basic elements of mindfulness are breathing, meditation, body awareness, relaxation and focusing on the here and now.
Mindfulness has shown improvements in students academic performance, social behaviour and self-esteem to name a few. Studies have proven that mindfulness has a positive effect on mental health, helping to improve stress and anxiety in students. Find out more about mindfulness techniques here.
Creating an environment that students feel like they can open up and express themselves, whether it be to a teacher or between friends is important in overcoming traumatic situations or improve how they are feeling.
You can use Mentimeter to facilitate sensitive but needed discussions on important topics. The ability for students to voice their opinion and articulate how they feel anonymously can help to relieve some anxiety and stress.
Try out these templates to help encourage conversations.
As each student has had a different experience over the past few months, offering one-to-one sessions for any students that would like to talk, need reassurance or extra support is important so that everyone can express themselves equally. Ongoing opportunities for students to talk individually if needed can help the transition back to normal life.
Incorporate dedicated time for reflections, discussions and for students to share how they are feeling in a safe and comfortable environment. Knowing that they have a specific time for thinking about how they feel can help them to feel safe and heard, it also encourages them to make time to focus on their mental health and think about their emotions.
Holding weekly reflection sessions can help bring to light any troubling areas that can be improved on.
Did you know that you can compare the results of your presentation over time and see trends in the data?
Learn more here
Creating discussions on how students could look out for one another can help it keep such ideas at the forefront of their mind. It may be hard for a student to open up to their teacher, but discussing how they feel with a friend may be easier and feel like they are less likely to be judged.
Use this template so students can help one another be better and help one another.
The time away from the classroom has meant that students are desperately missing interactions with each other and a sense of belonging to a community. Group activities are a great way to have some fun whilst building upon their relationships with one another.
Try introducing a quiz to the class to create some friendly competition and have fun!