How Teachers Can Support Student’s Mental Health
You’ve heard of work spouses, right? I jokingly refer to my son’s daycare teachers as his work parents. It’s a joke but the analogy kind of works. Teachers are the amazing humans we trust our children with for a large chunk of their day and childhood. They become another caregiver for our child and hopefully another member of that child’s team. As such, teachers feel a huge responsibility for supporting the students in their classroom! (We parents are so thankful you do by the way, for,....well... everything).
So, what can teachers do to support their student’s mental health? First, being a caring, safe adult and fostering a classroom built on mutual respect and kindness goes so very far to set up kids for success. I say this to remind you that even by asking the question and being you that you’re probably already being so supportive.
The most important thing is working with the child and their caregivers (as available) to figure out what their buttons are and what resets those buttons. In the substance abuse world, we teach HALT the BADS but I think that it’s a great place to start with any button labeling project.
H - Hungry B - Bored
A - Angry A - Anxious
L - Lonely D - Depressed
T - Tired S - Stressed
If you know your student struggles with one or more of these often work with them to set them up for success when they are feeling one of these ways. Hungry is easy, right? Have an extra snack. Every classroom is different but here are some ideas for the others: Angry? Calm down activities (I love cute breathing exercises) or get a drink of water. Lonely? Connect them to a kid in class, find a moment of one on one time, or help them draw a picture/write a note for the person they miss. Tired? Snacks, a drink of water, and some active stretches can help get them through. Bored? Have an after work is done activity list. Anxious? Good old deep breaths again! Depressed? Get them involved, give them space to feel. Stressed? Try and reduce noise or pressure wherever possible.
Every kid is different and I am so aware of the challenges you as teachers face trying to address the needs of each of the 20+ amazing humans in your classroom with so little support and supplies. Remember you are just one member of your student’s team. Reach out to caregivers, administrators, etc. If you notice a pattern of something being a challenge talk with your team about it or talk with the caregiver about getting the family extra support outside the classroom.
You all are superheroes and I’m so thankful for you.