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During Distance Learning last spring, our counselor, Mrs. Timm, offered resources for families as they supported their children in their new learning environment.
Your student(s) may be getting curious about what’s going on and asking some tough questions regarding what COVID-19 is all about. The CDC provided an excellent video directed to children with information on the virus here. While you are hunkered down at home, some things to consider when ADULT information is going into YOUNG minds – find it here.
The confusion mentioned above can lead to some more difficult days ahead. In the face of anxious feelings and/or worry, please find a valuable 2-pager with conversation points and strategies here.
It’s hard to not feel like you’re on vacation when school is out as a child. Time management and screen time limitations are even harder! Common Sense Media offers a list of resources to assist you in creating these boundaries with your student(s) here.
Below you will find some key things parents can do to help their child achieve success in a distance learning environment: (Referenced from Edmentum, 2019)
Help Your Child Build a Schedule
Parent involvement is key to success in distance courses. With the help of parents and caregivers, students need a routine to follow on a daily basis in order to effectively manage their time and to stay on track. Having a well-thought-out, specific daily schedule is key, and parents can be a huge help not only in building such a plan but also in making sure that it is followed. Common Sense Media breaks it down into chunks of time with activities here or you can find templates for daily routines below.
Before your child’s distance learning begins, sit down together and think through what he or she is responsible for accomplishing in his or her distance courses on a daily or weekly basis, how much time those tasks will realistically take, and what other commitments (chores, personal time, activities, etc.) he or she needs to consider. Be sure to hang up the schedule in a noticeable place, like on the refrigerator or next to any other family master calendars, to help keep your child accountable for reaching their goals, making productive changes, or hitting important milestones, tell the teacher about it—it’s guaranteed that your child will appreciate the positive feedback coming from multiple angles.
Bullying prevention through Peace Managers
More than one out of every five students report being bullied, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics. The majority of bullying happens at school, but it can also take place on the way to school, through text messages or online (better known as cyberbullying).
St. Mary School’s counselor, Mrs. Timm, began the “Peace Managers” program, which uses peer-to-peer conflict resolution between fellow students before things get out of control, helping to create a supportive school environment. Mrs. Timm introduced the program to the campus after listening to struggling students. Peace Managers, all sixth to eighth graders, must maintain good grades and be excellent citizens to remain in the program. They meet regularly with one another, teachers, and the school counselor to discuss incidents they’ve witnessed or prevented.
Before lunch or recess, a handful of on-duty Peace Managers tie on their blue capes, grab a clipboard and head out to the playground. Using their eyes, ears and experience, they help students in lower grades resolve their conflicts on the spot. Every incident is noted and shared back with school staff.
Each Peace Manager attends a three-hour training session. “We do a lot of role playing, practicing what they need to say to kids when they see conflicts,” Mrs. Timm says.
After passing a readiness test, students are given the tools that help them guide other students through conflict resolution. They utilize a “conflict resolution wheel” with various options to offer. Mrs. Timm notes, “Our goal with the Peace Managers is that they are not supposed to solve the problems for the students, but the students are to solve the problems themselves and they just guide them through it.”
She offers that if a Peace Manager has been the victim of bullying, “they have more sensitivity to know what to look for and more empathy. Over time, Peace Managers develop a sense of confidence through their training and in action on the playground. They learn conflict resolution skills themselves and how to manage their own anger.”
Bullying prevention tips for families
Mrs. Timm urges parents to understand that bullying is not acceptable and can have severe consequences that can result in mental health concerns, substance abuse, school, and academic problems.
Bullying can be divided into three categories: physical and verbal bullying, as well as social behaviors which can include exclusion (leaving someone out, telling others not to be their friends) and access of embarrassing information (spreading rumors of embarrassing someone in public).
Mrs. Timm suggests considering not only the person being bullied, but the person doing the bullying. “Many times, the person who is bullying is doing it because they are having serious family issues at home and feeling bad about themselves. Then they come to school and take it out on students in their class. My goal is to have empathy for the bully and look for the best ways to help.”
Signs that a student is being bullied can be “they shut down and build a wall up and isolate themselves,” she explains. “They can also show signs of depression. You don’t want to let it get to the point where they are feeling so sad that they might be suicidal. The biggest push at our school is students need to feel they have a safe environment here to speak up. I make it clear to all our students that bullying is common, but you don’t have to face it alone and it’s important to report it. There’s a difference between reporting and tattling, and our students are taught the difference.”
Signs that parents should be looking out for if their child is being bullied are depression, social withdrawal, low self-esteem, sleep disturbance and persistent or recurring abdominal pain or headache.
Cyberbullying is quite common and can include things such as harassing messages, threats, and intimidation techniques, or disbursing of private or embarrassing information online, Michelle notes. Cyberbullying spreads more quickly than bullying, has access to a much wider audience and can potentially remain online permanently. Perpetrators can often remain anonymous.
“Kids need to be smart about what websites they go to and careful about what they do,” she says. “Parents have to be aware and knowledgeable about what is out there, as it can spiral quickly out of control. They need to have open communication with their kids, pay attention to when children say they want to talk, and make time for discussion.”
“Hearts of Happiness” program with Mini Horses
In May, 2019, Mrs. Timm implemented an Animal Assisted Intervention (AAI) program into her existing school counseling program here at St. Mary School. The animals she partners with in the AAI program are two miniature horses named Felicity and Angel. She trained and worked with them for months to prepare them for being on campus to help her assist individual students who have been diagnosed with anxiety to open up and discuss difficult issues. Felicity and Angel are on campus weekly, and are a big hit amongst all St. Mary students.