Two weeks ago I wrote about our efforts as a staff to do what’s best for kids. I keep thinking about this topic, and a related one—children’s mental health. Daily I see articles about this subject, and have concerns that, amidst the focus on academic learning time lost, the mental health piece is not being addressed adequately. Listening and being present to children are good places to start when considering their mental health. And there is so much more.
As I ponder this topic, I go back to a session we had in April with psychologist, Sarah Crawford. During a session she offered to parents on how to reduce stress in children’s lives, Sarah spelled out this list of requirements for the mental well being of both children and adults, particularly in these times:
- connection – small deposits of quality time, as reminders that we have each other and that we are a part of something greater than ourselves
- socialization – being among friends, anticipation of time together
- learning/new information – new, novel activities/experiences that fuel our brains and keep creativity flowing
- new environments/stimulation – daily movement in different locations, mix up location of activities, add freshness to routines
- rest/safety – quiet time, wordless activities (e.g. reading, drawing, close eyes), cultivate ways to make being home special
- nutrition – one aspect of our lives over which we can have some control, good time to promote this with children, get them involved and teach them about healthy nutrition
- play – organic, unstructured time, not related to school, gives juice to the rest of our lives, no hidden motives
- fresh air/sunshine – crucial for everyone, experiences in nature are vital for everyone’s well being
One important takeaway from Sarah’s talk was the significance of having as many of these elements in place as possible. When this happens, it provides a strong scaffolding for when one or more element is unavailable. For example, if children feel safe and connected at home, they can handle the disappointment of not being with their friends for awhile. As a staff, we’ve applied a considerable amount of time and energy into helping our students feel connected. This past week a beautiful example of this occurred.
One population of students hit hardest by the isolation of the pandemic has been our oldest class, the 3rd/4th graders. Although several of them will be returning for one last year at the Seed, many friends will be closing the Awakening Seed chapter of their lives. They missed out on their last few months at the school, which included a graduation trip, and other fun end-of-the-year activities. To help them remember their connection to the Seed and each other, everyone received a personally delivered graduation sign for their front yard. It didn’t replace all the fun days of time with friends, but it served as a reminder that they will always have a strong connection with Awakening Seed and each other. Perhaps it will invoke a memory of a time when they discovered an inner resilience they might not have otherwise known.