Oct 22, 2020

Stress and Self-Care: Advice from a School Social Worker

The pandemic, derecho, and social unrest are circumstances that may add a complex layer of stress for students and families. Recently, KCRG aired an interview with Katy Lee, a school social worker at Grant Wood Area Education Agency, and discussed the importance of self-care this year, not just for students, but also their parents. 

This stress complicates the dynamics of school work, increasing the need for support from school social workers like those at Grant Wood AEA. “Work in education can be stressful in the best KCRG article (2).pngcircumstances since there are so many important pieces at play when it comes to supporting students.” she says, “Today, we’re balancing a lot of new learning with an increased concern for students and their well-being.”

What are some signs a student might demonstrate high levels of stress?
Katy mentioned a few signs for parents to look out for during this school year. These include:

  • Changes in attitude, behavior or routine
  • No longer eating well
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Saying they feel stressed
  • Poor academic performance

In reference to virtual learning, Katy noted that some students may thrive while others may struggle. “There may be variances on how students are responding to remote learning. Each student is unique, and it is important to recognize how they are reacting to these changes.”

What is a healthy way to respond to change?
Self-care is vital at this time.  Katy explained that, similar to the safety guidance given to airline passengers, “You’re supposed to put your own air mask on first before helping others.” Only when a parent or teacher has taken care of his or her needs will the caregiver be in a position to help students and children, she said. Some self-care measures can include exercise, and having conversations with loved ones and trusted friends.

Connectedness also is very important during these challenging times. Parents can help their children write letters to loved ones, connect with family through FaceTime or Zoom, or schedule COVID friendly playdates. A great way for young children to feel connected is to get involved in the community, donating to a food bank, or participating in a fundraising walk.

“Children need a sense of routine -- It’s comforting,” suggests Katy. “This year might change these routines, so communication is needed for your children to feel a sense of safety.” Be open with your child and set a positive routine each week. Sometimes self-care isn’t enough, and that’s OK. There are resources available to help.

Resources for Parents:

  • Iowa 2-1-1: Connects families with food pantries, clothing, shelters, rent assistance, utility assistance, childcare, employment supports, and more.
  • Foundation 2: Provides mental health and crisis services
  • Crisis Textline: Provides 24 hour crisis services by text. (Text HOME to 741741)

Further Reading:

You can find a recording of Katy's interview on KCRG's website.