Elementary schools focus on mental health in kids during pandemic

Published: Aug. 17, 2020 at 7:27 AM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - As kids head back to class, teachers and administrators continue making adjustments to how things will look this year. School counselors are also preparing to help students and to meet their emotional needs during a pandemic.

10/11 NOW’S Kamri Sylve spoke with school counselors at Norris Elementary in Firth who tell her their goal is to meet kids where they are. As of now, all of their students are doing in-person learning, and while so much about this year is different, many of their processes will look look the same.

Back in March, many counseling sessions were taking place over Zoom. Now, you'll see in-person sessions but with masks and social distancing.

Since school just started, counselors are working hard to get to know their new students and see what sort of struggles they're dealing with early on. For younger kids, this means providing them and their parents with coping skills to get through these tough times.

"We're really trying to give ourselves the time and devote the time now to build those relationships and understand what their challenges are so that if we do find ourselves in that situation again, we'll do whatever we need to do to support them," said Jill Behrends, school counselor at Norris Elementary.

Right now, Norris counselors are educating younger students on calming strategies, as well as learning to start and finish tasks.

Counselors tell 10/11 giving students these tools early on will hopefully help them have a successful rest of the year, no matter if that's in-person or they switch back to remote only.

Even before COVID-19 hit, Norris counselors built time into the school day to focus on mental health in kids. They call it Social Emotional Learning Time, and it's provided to more than 600 students both on an individual basis and in small group settings.

Helping kids with things like social interaction and relationship building are some of the skills students walk away with.

"Working on those strategies and helping them understand their brains and their bodies. Whether it's remote learning or any other situation in their life, as they grow as learners, those are just strategies that they are going to need," Behrends said.

For students not attending schools with similar counseling programs, Norris counselors tell 10/11 each school should be able to point you in the direction to receive the help you and your kids need.

Counselor Behrends shared with 10/11 that ever since the start of school last week, kids, for the most part, don’t seem to have many worries and are simply excited to be back in the classroom.

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