Over the past year, I have heard of the following things happen in our schools:
- Kids shooting people with frozen orbeez
- Kids climbing into the ceiling tiles in the bathrooms
- Assaulting of a police officer and a principal; these were separate occasions and students
- Elementary school aged children moaning “mommy/daddy” (not appropriate no matter the age)
- Stealing/defacing school property such as paper towel dispensers
- Pulling the porcelain toilets off the walls
- Vaping, oh the vaping
- There is so much more
Every morning I get dressed, I feel as if I am going into Guerrilla warfare. Our schools are in a major crisis, and unless you are working in them, it’s hard to realize how truly dangerous some schools are becoming. From TikTok trends of defacing and stealing school property, to “video yourself punching a teacher,” there is so much going on in our schools. So last Friday, I decided that my class needed a mental health day and we slept.
No, that wasn’t an April Fool’s joke; we took a nap in Mrs. Ryan’s class.
You may be whispering under your breath, “I’d can’t believe she did that.” I am fortunate in that in my class, I can connect napping to my standards by learning about mental rest and the brain. I was interested though in how my students were actually doing. “Fine, good, or okay” wouldn’t cut it for me. I had each student write a paragraph about how their mood, stress, and sleep were during the past week. Over 75% of my students had very negative things to share and some were even heartbreaking. I allowed a one-hour nap with a nice rain storm and cracking fire projected onto my white board. After they woke, their assignment was to write a follow-up paragraph describing any mental or emotional changes. Many students thanked me after class for allowing them to rest. One even shared that that had been the first time they had fully uninterrupted rest in a few weeks. I understand not everyone can let their students sleep in class. For most classes it can be frowned upon; Friday, April 1st though my class needed it.
I ask you to please check on your children no matter their age.
COVID has created some major disruptions in our children’s social and emotional growth. Doing these check-ins can be confusing or difficult for parents. I am in no way a trained therapist; I am just a high school teacher who has experience with teenagers. I encourage you to try some of these ideas with your children as you check on their mental health. They may need your help, but don’t know how to ask.
Communicate with your child. Your child may not feel comfortable discussing these things face to face. They may open up more if you text them, even when you’re under the same roof. Messaging is many kids’ primary source of communication today, so they may be more open to you if you communicate in the same method.
Another way you can communicate is by journaling. The parent can write a question in a journal and allow the child to write out their response within a day or two. This allows the child time to think and respond, instead of giving an immediate response when asked face to face, which often results in, “I’m fine mom” because they don’t know how to say they aren’t fine.
If your child does want to talk, ensure they have your undivided attention. If they start to open up and you answer a phone call and walk away, the trust can be broken. Be sure to ask open-ended questions which prevent yes or no answers. An open ended question could be, “What was difficult for you today?” instead of, “Did you have a good day?”
If you don’t feel confident with this topic, I encourage you to connect with your child’s guidance counselor, who is trained to have these difficult discussions and may have already built relationships with your student.