Last week, I had the privilege of attending a leadership conference with educators from schools across Asia. What a blessing it was to reconnect with people on a professional level again! Dr. Michael Thompson, a school psychologist from the United States, was one of the keynote speakers. His talk entitled, “Are the Kids Alright?: Post-Pandemic Mental Health of Children” was encouraging and full of information that I think will be helpful to our parents as well.
One of the worries we have had for the last several years is about how the pandemic will impact our students in the long term. We have been anxious, isolated, and scared by so many uncertainties. The good news is that the vast majority of our kids will be alright. Kids are protected from trauma by a strong attachment to their parents, community, school, hope, faith, and belief that life has meaning. Our students experienced a lot of stress and anxiety during the pandemic, but many of them were in supportive environments that helped them navigate these challenges.
However, we are seeing that kids are “out of shape” for school. There are pockets of learning loss, anxiety, fear of failure, and developmental immaturity. The positive thing is that none of these issues need to cause long-term problems for students. Dr. Thompson suggests that providing structure and predictability, setting clear expectations, encouraging self-efficacy, and building positive relationships with caring adults are the actions that will help children return to thriving. Dalat has focused on these habits for many years, and we know how to do this.
Dr. Thompson also suggests that we have conversations about the impacts of the pandemic with our students. We can ask our children to tell their stories about what was hard and difficult for them. Then, we should follow up by asking how they coped with and overcame those challenges. This helps kids to build resilience and look to the future with hope. I want to encourage you to have these conversations with your kids and to help them apply the new skills and strategies they learned over the last few years to their lives going forward.
I feel greatly encouraged by this message of hope moving forward, and I hope that you will too. We, as adults, need to talk about the future in the positive and move past our own anxieties, as our children are modeling their behavior after ours. Even if the kids aren’t alright yet, they will be with our help and support.