Managing stress during COVID-19: Mental wellness for students, parents and school staff

Mental | Managing stress during COVID-19: Mental wellness for students, parents and school staff
By Toby Lester | 21st April 2020 | 3 min read

We’re in the midst of an unprecedented health pandemic. There’s no denying, it’s all a little bit stressful. The UK is entering the second phase of a national lockdown and schools are set to be closed for the foreseeable future. 

Just as the scarce British sunshine starts to show its face, we find ourselves stuck indoors. While we focus on the physical impact of our days under lockdown, it’s important not to neglect the mental effects of our new ‘normal’, and to take the time to check-in on those around us. 

With increasing pressure on both parents and teachers to minimise impact on student education, it’s important to consider how we can help each other adapt to life under lockdown. 

Be kind to your parents 

The role of ‘parent’ has suddenly expanded to ‘parent and educator’. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and many parents are rising to the challenge to deliver lessons and oversee learning from kitchen tables, home offices and living rooms. 

Balancing remote working, potential financial issues, family-related stress and more, parents are understandably feeling the strain. So, what can you do? 

In a recent survey, we asked parents what they want from their schools during closures. The resounding response was communication. Alongside lesson plans and learning resources, parents appreciate detail around expectations (how long to spend on each activity, expected learning outcomes and whether tasks are compulsory, for example).  

Parents also need reassurance that they’re doing a good job. The expectation to teach children will leave many feeling anxious about their own abilities to understand work and provide support. Take the opportunity to strengthen your home/school partnerships and reach out to parents who may be feeling particularly vulnerable or stressed. Ensure parents understand your team are still there for them. Remember – a little goes a long way. 

Be kind to your students 

Depending on their age group, young people will be experiencing a lot of confusion about their new home-learning environment and COVID-19. Children likely have a lot of questions about what the pandemic means for their future: When will they be able to go back to school? Why can’t they see their friends or family? Are they safe?  

With children spending more time online during lockdown, many are likely to stumble across inaccurate news and information about coronavirus. Offering parents government recommended resources and advice may go some way in helping to put young children at ease, as well as ensuring older children have access to the right information. 

For those students who are now supposed to be sitting end of year exams, the future may feel very uncertain. Many will appreciate some reassurance that their academic futures won’t be impacted negatively by closures. Ensure students have the correct and relevant information from the Department for Education and UCAS, where appropriate. 

While home-learning is important, students should also be encouraged to take this opportunity to explore new hobbies, activities and interests. Outside of the classroom, learning can be far more flexible. With extra-curricular activities and clubs now closed, many children may be feeling lonely and isolated. Where you can, explore video calls to bridge the home/school gap. Above all, remember to have fun with learning! 

For inspiration, we caught up with Stukeley Meadows Primary School to find out how they’re staying engaged with students during closures. Read the case study

Be kind to your staff 

Adapting and facilitating education for students is a big ask for teachers. Many will also be managing their own stresses and strains at home. Remind your colleagues that it’s okay to switch off at the end of the day. For those adapting to working from home, remind them to take breaks and stick to a schedule which provides some time for rest and relaxation, every day. 

In the wake of exam and coursework cancellations, schools have also been tasked with determining student grades. While teachers will have the knowledge and expertise to undertake such a huge responsibility, ensure they have the resources, facilities and support they require to do so with confidence.  

Many teachers may also feel obliged to be on standby at all hours. While this is admirable, some may need a gentle reminder that they aren’t superheroes and must take care of themselves in order to look after their students. 

Last but by no means least, be kind to yourself 

While you can’t support every parent, student and colleague, every time, you can take care of yourself. Switch off your mobile, shut down your email inbox and take a moment to check-in with yourself. As the saying goes, look after number one! 

ParentMail is here to bring certainty to schools, even during the most uncertain times. Our engagement solutions support thousands of schools to stay in touch with parents and facilitate home-learning, every day. We’re ready to help you – let's get started