Throughout 2020-21, students have experienced many changes and uncertainty due to the pandemic and civil unrest across the United States. In the 21st century, students are also exposed to many events on social media that can add additional stress. Due to the recent events, students may experience a range of emotions, including anger, fear, frustration, disappointment, and hurt. These emotions may mask some of the broader concerns that students face, and that ultimately impact their academic performance. By schools and districts taking an actively inclusive stance and creating a school climate that allows students to express themselves allows for students to feel safe in their academic environments. Below are strategies to support students’ emotional expression and to promote a positive school climate in which students can thrive.
- Provide small groups in schools (face-to-face or virtually) for students to express themselves to ensure that they have a safe place to process their emotions. These groups can be facilitated by school counselors, clinical counselors, school psychologists, or social workers, as well as peer-to-peer support groups. This type of support can be offered through collaboration with local counseling agencies, hospices, and other entities that support students who need additional support.
- Teach students the proper social skills that are related to identifying their emotions and expressing them in a meaningful way.
- Promote safe places throughout the school that are conducive for students to have conversations with trusted adults.
- Build rapport early in the year with students so they are comfortable sharing when they experience a situation that needs to be processed.
- Ensure that students have equitable access to resources by providing community resource lists and access to resources that are available in the academic setting.
- Encourage students to participate in developmentally appropriate conversations and classroom lessons that discuss the recent events throughout the country including but not limited to the traumatic experiences of the recent deaths, civil unrest, and the pandemic on themselves, their families, and their communities.