How to communicate positively and support students during difficult times
As an educator, we can’t hide upsetting news from our students. But we can ensure we create a safe and open environment for them where they feel comfortable raising their worries.
There is a delicate balance between addressing challenging times in a pragmatic manner, while also shielding students from a spiral of anxiety. Of course, news and external factors that may impact a student are something you can’t control. Here, we explore what you can influence and positive ideas to help you to maintain supporting your students.
Speak openly about feelings and listen
While it may seem obvious, some students need more coaxing when talking about their feelings. Those that need a little more persuasion often feel better after getting things off their minds. You could try sitting in a circle and going around asking how each student feels to foster more of an open environment. They might be more inclined to open up in a group setting. If the opposite applies, maybe catch them at the end of a class or break to ask them how they’re doing if you notice they seem a little off. One of the key things is to listen to them and make sure they understand that their feelings are validated. Ensure they feel like they can speak to you, their parents, or a trusted adult if they’re feeling overwhelmed and anxious. And explain to them that it’s ok and normal to worry.
Talk about positive news together
Research some good news stories and discuss them as a class together. While difficult situations cannot and shouldn’t be ignored, it’s important to remind students of good news too to help them stay positive. There are some great places to find good news stories such as The Good News Network, and the Instagram account Tanksgoodnews.
Encourage creative and physical fun
It can be helpful to ensure students are engaging in absorbing activities during challenging times. Things like coloring in, baking, crafting, practicing yoga, and spending time outside. We created this fun nature scavenger hunt to encourage children to have fun outdoors and explore being in nature.
Read to support Social Emotional Learning (SEL)
Reading together out loud is great to grasp your students attention and can serve as an effective way to discuss emotions. We’ve put together some books that encourage social-emotional learning (SEL) concepts that can easily be incorporated in the classroom. If you’re teaching older students, perhaps you could discuss self-help books and mental-health podcasts. Prevention.com have curated a list of top mental health podcasts to give you some inspiration.
Explore mindfulness apps
There are many helpful mindfulness apps on the market, which might be a valuable tool for you to suggest to parents.
The Calm app offers guided and unguided meditation, which is most helpful for teenagers. Calm also plays relaxing sounds for children and sleep stories to read to help them relax and sleep better.
Headspace is another great tool for mindfulness and one of the first ones to be released, so it had a comprehensive collection of guided meditation. There are specific mindfulness activities for children, with five themes: Calm, Focus, Kindness, Sleep and Wake Up. Each activity is customized for three different age groups – under 5, 6–8, and 10–12, and each has a role for parents.
Take some positive action
While you may be in what feels like a powerless situation regarding what is happening around you, it might help students to take some positive action for their cause. For example, perhaps you could organize a bake sale to raise money for a charity. Students can design posters and encourage parents to come along too. If your students are a little older, you could help them arrange a sponsored walk where teachers chaperone. While this may seem like a small thing, being proactive may help your students feel better.
There may be external factors that are challenging for you too. As an educator, it’s vital to practice self-care and look after your wellbeing too. Explore our blog to find out our top self-care recommendations for educators.
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