Managing post-COVID anxiety in educational settings: Four thoughts for school psychologists

To make an incredible understatement, this has been quite the past two years for students and school staff. 

Even several months in, the rhythms of in-person classes can feel strange and unfamiliar to kids of all ages. Parents may be facing separation anxiety, and teachers can be fatigued and exhausted. 

Additionally, the risk of therapist burnout is worryingly prevalent among school psychologists, because they transcend the parent-student-teacher bridge in terms of advice given and services provided. As everyone tries to adjust to new realities, the number of cases and problems they confront may balloon. Even the most cool, calm and collected individual will easily find this overwhelming.

To be sure, a few silver linings are on the horizon. The pandemic’s shared sense of pain, isolation and confusion have swept away many of the old taboos that held back uncomfortable, but still important discussions. Workplaces, including in education, have had to meaningfully grapple with the specter of employee burnout and its impact like never before. Even state and federal governments have taken notice of what students and their support networks have faced, and some have stepped in to provide fresh, targeted funding. 

The question, then, is how school psychologists and educators harness these silver linings to light the way. At Psyched Services, we have more than a few thoughts:

  • Provide space for all experiences. School psychologists have heard just about everything when it comes to life’s problems and adverse personal circumstances. The sheer weight and intensity of COVID-19 and its impact, however, is what is still new for all of us.

    As best as they can, school psychologists need to ensure that students, their families and educators know they have ample space to discuss and even grieve over anything and everything they’ve been through.

  • Help teachers create realistic expectations in the classroom. From enduring tragic personal loss, to the general sense of displacement and disconnection that has stemmed from the pandemic’s isolation and social changes, a new form of childhood trauma has emerged from COVID-19.

    For some students, this means academic performance, behavior, social relationships and more could look different from the “before” period that preceded the pandemic. Even while navigating through potential solutions, keep in mind that really nothing is “normal” anymore.

  • Determine the specific support your school or district needs. As a school psychologist, you are very much someone on the frontlines, and will have the most precise idea of what is missing in your district when it comes to supporting students.

    Many districts will find they now have a bit of extra funding support to pursue extra services. The American Rescue Plan Act made available more than $4 billion funding for social-emotional learning that can be allocated at the discretion of a state’s governor (GEER), amid a broader package of measures to tackle learning loss, expand summer educational enrichment programs, and create after-school programs.

    In particular, if empowering teachers and other members of the school’s educational team is a goal, Psyched Services’ virtual training and coaching is a reliable resource with the cost and logistical benefits of being project-based. 

  • Provide direct support to reduce student anxiety. For both school psychologists and parents, this can include a focus on schedules and routines to create consistency, engaging with calming strategies, and encouraging a focus on the positives. Our free, downloadable anxiety leaflet can help you get started.

  • Engage in ongoing parent and guardian discussions. If the blurring of lines between school and home and work and home reminded us of anything, it is that what happens in the classroom and what happens at home frequently interconnect and overlap. A holistic approach is most effective and beneficial for managing student needs.

After the numerous challenges COVID-19 brought upon everyone in school settings – some shared, and many unique to each teacher, psychologist, student and family – the widespread return to in-person school has both revived old troubles and ignited new ones.

As a professional, it’s important to remember you’re far from alone. At Psyched Services, we know you want to be a capable, empowered School Psychologist with the knowledge you need to help students thrive. Sign up for course updates on our Learn.Do website, and enjoy the peace of mind that comes with receiving expert support.

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