The past 18 months have taken a toll on all of us. The Covid-10 pandemic has impacted us at all levels: from the physiological threat of being sick or dying from the virus to the psychological stress and anxiety and the social isolation we experienced during lockdowns and restrictions. Whether we have lost family members or friends, relationships, confidence, opportunities or sense of control over our world and the world in general, we are all experiencing grief. Yes, grief is a normal response to loss. The world as we knew it has changed and it has changed us too.
As you head back into the classroom environment, you and your students may feel a sense of heaviness and uncertainty. The tasks that were a normal part of everyday may feel more challenging and you may struggle to focus. As annoying and disruptive as it is, it is also normal. Being “in this together” can help us through the difficult days. After months of on and off isolation and limited contact with others, we can celebrate being together again and use this sense of community to feel stronger.
Here are five things you can do to attend to yourself and your students:
Be kind to yourselves
- It’s normal for our body and mind to struggle a bit with all the changes. We’re not back to normal, we’re rediscovering the world and exploring how we function within it.
- Move your body, take deep breaths, get lots of rest, and drink plenty of water – this helps your body and your mind. It’s good as a response to stress and also a good practice to help prevent the impact of stress.
Be kind to each other
- Offering kindness and compassion for each student is a gift that keeps giving. Considering that each has their own unique experience and ways of responding is key.
Create opportunities to share
- One of the greatest struggles we all face is feeling isolated and alone. Offering opportunities to normalize that we each struggle with different things allows us to truly see one another and feel connected to one another.
- Explore things you can do individually and as a class to soothe tired brains and stressed bodies. We know that when we feel stressed/tired/overwhelmed, lights seem brighter, sounds appear louder and everything is just a little more challenging. Consider dimming the lights in the classroom once or twice a day and have everyone speak in hushed tones. Include stretching as part of your routine to feel stress and power and resilience in your bodies.
Look for change in behaviours
- Pay attention to changes in behaviour and attitude as signs of increasing struggles in your students. Ask a colleague and parents if they have noticed similar changes. Be curious: tell the child you’ve noticed some changes (give examples without labelling the behaviour) and ask them about why. A child may not respond in the moment, but they will know that they can come to you in the future if they want to talk or need your support.
Seek additional supports
- If you are concerned about a child or are unsure, connect with their parents and discuss the possibility of connecting the family with additional supports.
We are currently working on a new and exciting school resource Grief in my Backpack, which we’ll be launching at Teachers’ Convention in early 2022. You can also find more information and resources on our website www.childrensgriefcentre.ca