As an educator, academic life coach and family consultant I can tell you that COVID has undoubtedly changed education forever. Any teacher will tell you this, any parent will tell you this, and every student has experienced this. Because teaching and learning happens in the closed spaces of spare rooms and bedrooms, supporting students’ well-being has become essential to what schools, parents, and families focus on every day. It is well understood that student well-being is more than addressing a deficiency in physical and mental conditions. All students have experienced anxiety in one form or another which can be explained by a myriad of changes in schooling and home, new societal pressures, and strained peer and teacher relationships.
The inability or lack of guidance to cope with these issues can cause long-term psychological damage and inhibit student development which can lead to depression and other issues amongst youth. Additionally, studies have shown that children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds and non-traditional backgrounds are more vulnerable to mental health issues as they face distinctive barriers and pressures in modern society. So, what can parents do to support student’s well-being and help students adequately prepare for the challenges that lie ahead?
Here are some carefully selected well-being activities and resources designed for students to use themselves and, for parents to support their child, using the MAPS approach: Mindfulness, daily gratitude, Physical and Self-care activities.
Mindfulness is an awareness of what is happening right now, rather than dwelling on events in the past or future. Children who engage in mindfulness can reduce the effects of stress and anxiety: it can help students keep engaged and calm them down if they are frustrated or dealing with difficult emotions. Regular use of mindfulness activities can help students relax and feel happier.
Activity: Mindful Breathing
This activity can work at different periods during the day. This can act as a thoughtful relaxing start and end of the day or calm a student down when anxious or stressed. You can even play slow relaxing sounds in the background to help create a calm atmosphere, such as meditative music.
Find a comfortable place to sit or to lie down on your back.
Place your hands on your stomach.
Take a big deep breath (in through your nose and out through your mouth). Do this three times and then gently close your eyes.
Continue to slowly breathe in through your nose and count 1 to 3 in your head (or out loud).
Hold your breath and count 1 to 3in your head (or out loud).
Slowly breathe out through your mouth and count 1, 2, 3 in your head (or out loud.
Count 1, 2, 3 in your head (or out loud) and then breathe in again through your nose.
Repeat these steps for five minutes and think about what parts of your body move when you breathe in.
When you have finished, gently open your eyes. Have a look at the room around you and think about how you feel.
During this quiet and relaxing time, you might also think about the sound of your breath. Notice whether your body feels heavy or light when breathing and the sounds you can hear while you are breathing. Then, think about how you feel.
Wellbeing Activities Booklet: Queensland Department for Education
A daily gratitude
Gratitude is to be aware for all the things we take for granted and taking time to express your appreciation. Expressing gratitude on a regular basis has been well known for improving empathy, cultivating optimism and reducing stress amongst students.
Activity: Gratitude Journal
An easy way to practice gratitude is to keep a Gratitude Journal. Pick a journal that looks appealing, or a simple notebook then decorate with pictures of things that you care about. Start by writing three things that you are grateful for each day or try some of these prompts. Note that younger children might need an adult to support them whilst older students can do this independently.
What are three things that I appreciate about my school?
What are three aspects that I am grateful for at home?
Write about a happy memory
Write about a pet you live
Write a food that you eat
Write about a friend that you are grateful for
It’s important to that gratitude journals can also include other forms such as drawing pictures or writing poems, it’s up to you how you want to express your gratitude.
Journal buddies – 35 Gratitude Prompts for Middle Schoolers
Physical activities such as team sports, exercise routines and yoga have been known to support student well-being and have benefits for mental health. Regular exercise should be incorporated into a daily routine to support a balanced and holistic student lifestyle.
Healthier Happier: Exercises that support fitness and wellbeing.
Self-care activities involve activities that students enjoy and ones that support wellbeing, such activities can include listening and adding songs to a self-made playlist, talking to a friend on the phone, reading for fun, adequate sleep, religious time, going for a nature walk and much more. Details on how to prepare a self-care plan are below.
ReachOut Australia: How to develop a self-care plan