Supporting students’ mental health needs to be at the forefront of our minds as teachers this year. As students acclimate back to school, they are facing tons of challenges. This is a very difficult time for many of them. This leaves us wondering, “What can we do to support our students in terms of their mental health?” This post offers a list of suggestions to help you navigate this unprecedented time by suggesting ideas for supporting students’ mental health.
What is Mental Health?
Mental health includes our psychological, emotional, and social well-being. It impacts how we think, feel, and behave. Further, it affects how we relate to others, handle stress, and make choices. Mental health has a huge impact on our lives.
Why is Mental Health Support Important in Schools?
Mental health support in schools is important because it is common for children to struggle with their mental health. As with many things, early intervention is very helpful. We can support students in developing strategies that they will use for the rest of their lives.
How Can You Support Mental Health in the Classroom?
Check out the 10 ideas below for supporting your students’ mental health in a socially distanced classroom.
1. Student check-ins
The first way to support students’ mental health on this list is using student check-ins. Student check-ins provide a way for students to reflect on how they are feeling that day and choose a strategy that they need. You can do this through a scheduled zoom time where students know they can pop in to talk to you or you can also do it through an online form. You can make it an assignment of all students or an optional activity that is available when students need it.
Journals are a great way for students to express themselves and practice reflecting. It is also a great way for students to get out all of the emotions and feelings that they are experiencing. You can do this digitally or have students write with supplies they have at home. You can also decide if you want to have students answer journal prompts or free write.
3. Class videos
Creating classroom videos is a great way to support student mental health. It gives students a fun and creative activity to do, and when it is completed they get to see all of their classmates and teachers together doing something fun. Assign a quick task for each student to do and record themselves doing and have them send it to you. Then compile all of the videos together to make a class video. You can even add music to it! For example, students could take a quick video dancing and then when you put all the videos together you will have a class dance party!
4. Videos of you teaching
This way to support student mental health may not have ever crossed your mind! Record videos of you teaching, telling jokes, reading a book, etc. The point is, students will miss you and want to see you! Recordings of yourself allow them to see you when they need to and give them a feeling of comfort. It doesn’t have to be academic! The only important part is that they see you.
5. Providing times for socialization
Everyone experiences the feeling of isolation during distance learning, especially your students. They are used to seeing and playing with each other. Provide times for students to just socialize with each other. Include times before and after your whole class lessons for students to talk to each other, have social snacks or lunches, or schedule zoom times that are just meant for socialization.
6. Encouraging play
Kids need playtime! No matter what their age is, kids need time to play. Encourage this through making it an option on a choice board, creating assignments that foster it, or by not creating a heavy workload. Talk to your kids and parents about the importance of play and about its necessity especially during these times. This is one of my favorite ways to support students’ mental health!
7. Motivating tasks
Aim to provide tasks for your students that are motivating. Supplying students with lots of busy work will not allow them to engage in a way that allows room for their own decisions. Think about where you can fit in student choice to your assignments. For example, if you are teaching about the solar system, try to provide options for how students can represent their understanding. If you are teaching about animal life cycles, let students choose the animal that they want to learn about.
8. Mental health choice board
I love a choice board. Choice boards provide assignments for students to do but it also gives them options in what they want to complete. Assigning work that focuses on mental health ensures that your students prioritize it. Providing choices doesn’t make the workload overwhelming and the last thing mental health should be is overwhelming. Some options for a mental choice board could be coloring, taking a walk, reading a book, stretching, taking a nap, or playing outside.
9. Home letters
Write your kids a letter and send it through the mail! Kids will love receiving a letter in the mail, especially from you. It is one more way of you being able to connect with your students. The surprise will definitely be a moral booster!
10. Mindfulness activities
Provide mindfulness activities for your students to complete. You can make them optional or an assignment. They can also be included on a choice board that you already have. Mindfulness activities include breathing exercises, journal writing, reflecting, drawing, any type of relaxing activity that is meant to calm your students’ thoughts.
We hope you found these ideas for supporting students’ mental health helpful. You may also be interested in learning about SEL in the classroom and SEL at home. In addition, you might also find this SEL resource helpful as well!