The Holiday Season is here. I want to wish everyone a joyous season. While you are enjoying your time with family and counting your blessings as you celebrate please be aware of each other. The holidays aren’t joyous for all, and some of our loved ones need our support. Sometimes, hurtful of sad memories are triggered, it may even be the lack of daylight hours, but whatever it is for each individual, the holidays can be a tough time.
Much like schools, our society is being challenged with a mental health crisis. In school, we talk about social, emotional, behavioral, (SEB) or social, emotional learning (SEL) and its impact on students. Whatever you call it, it boils down to our mental health. For students it’s not just depression and anxiety, its self regulation, physical stimulation, or connectedness. From the National Association of School Psychologists, mental health is defined as: “Mental health is not simply the absence of mental illness but also encompasses social, emotional, and behavioral health and the ability to cope with life’s challenges”.
Your typical school staff receives very little training in dealing with the SEB issues they are faced with on a daily basis. Gardiner Schools has made it an emphasis to provide training to teachers and other staff in dealing with SEB concerns. School wide training was provided in PAX, the Good Behavior Game, and Restorative Practices; multiple staff members attended a training last winter specifically for anxiety; the entire teaching staff had a nationally renowned speaker come to Gardiner to train them on anxiety; the elementary staff is actively developing a school wide system in helping to provide proper interventions to students in need, much like we do with RTI for students struggling in math and/or reading. No matter the amount of training provided to school staff and how great of a job they can do, some students will need more. In that respect, last year the school wrote a grant, which we did not receive, to employ a school based therapist to have on hand to handle our daily crisis, to help develop interventions for our SEB students, and to train teachers as well. This is something we continue to pursue as we look for alternatives.
Some of the things schools naturally provide, such as structure and security allow kids to flourish. While everyone needs a break from structure the long Holiday Break coupled with cold weather often keeping us indoors, and the darkest part of the year, all work against many of the students facing SEB problems. Watch your student as they deal with the over excitement, and over stimulation that often comes with the Holiday season. What do you notice, how do they cope, is it healthy, what instruction may they need? All of these are signs of their overall mental health.
Here are some tips from the American Academy of Pediatricians: