Resiliency Skills – Bridging the Gap Between School and Home

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By Chelsea Rasch, MSW, LCSW – May 8, 2024 –

America’s youth are in the throes of a mental health crisis. Professionals continue to observe a rise in mental health-related struggles in school-aged children since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020.

According to the Center for Disease and Control (CDC), 67 percent of US high school students reported that schoolwork was more difficult; 55 percent experienced emotional abuse in the home; 11 percent experienced physical abuse; and 24 percent reported they did not have enough food to eat during the pandemic.

All of these issues can have a detrimental effect on mental health. Another study conducted by Pew Research Center (2022) found that four in ten US parents have reported being “extremely” or “very” worried about children struggling with anxiety or depression.

To respond to these mental health implications in our school-aged youth, we are seeing a bigger push for mental health services both in and out of the school environment. Children are being referred at alarming frequency for outside therapeutic services and are being seen by psychiatrists/primary care physicians for medication management. Inside schools, we are seeing a bigger push for school behavior interventionists, as well as more counselors and school-based social workers and/or psychologists to combat these mental health-related struggles.

All of these interdisciplinary professionals, schools, and families are working together towards one common goal: to strengthen resiliency skills and supports within our schools and communities to foster successful student outcomes. Resiliency skills refer to our ability to face and adapt to challenges and overcome them.

Many parents have come forward with one common question: How can I help my child build these resiliency skills at home?

  1. Discuss resiliency and coping skills with your children. When we practice and build our skills in self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship building and decision-making, we are better equipped to navigate stressors, anxieties, and challenges. We can solve problems and work together at a higher level—in the classroom, at work and at home. Talk with your child about strategies that help them deal with difficult emotions. Do they practice deep breathing, listening to music? Or do they become argumentative and dysregulated? Identifying your child’s coping and resiliency patterns can give you a foundation to build upon.

  2. Model the behavior you wish to see. Children learn by watching their parents. One way to foster resiliency skills in children is to model these healthy behaviors at home. Dealing with difficult feelings/situations in an appropriate way and including children in these conversations can help build these skills. It’s important to stay calm and realistic. Children sense when we are worried and anxious, and our emotions can directly affect the emotions of our children. Remember, no one is perfect; it is not realistic to expect yourself to respond the right way every time. Practice keeping yourself regulated so you can model emotional regulation for your child.

  3. Remember the importance of self-care. Children are often sensitive to the stress of their caregivers. To cultivate their resiliency skills, we must ensure we are taking care of our own mental, social, and emotional wellness. Building in time (even if it’s only 15 minutes per day) for our own wellness practices – journaling, walking, meditating, exercising – can not only help model appropriate self-care, but also mitigate our own stress levels. Much like putting on your own oxygen mask before putting on a child’s, take care of yourself so you’re able to show up for others. If this is difficult for you, start out with a small goal and build on it. For example, listen to your favorite music for a “mindfulness moment” or go on a short walk at the beginning or end of the day.
     
  4. Connect with school/community professionals. Research and connect with professionals in your community to discuss how to optimize your child’s resiliency skills and success. Reach out to community providers, agencies, or local non-profits for additional education and activities. Connecting your child with a local club (YMCA, Boy Scouts, etc.) can be a great way to build resiliency skills and connect them with other children. Reach out to your child’s Youth First Mental Health Professional or school counselor to discuss additional ways to support your child.

  5. Practice, practice, practice! Regularly practicing healthy coping skills in response to stress is imperative, just as it is for any other skill like reading, math, or dribbling a basketball. In the same way we practice those skills, we have to practice identifying, expressing, and managing our emotions. By continually doing so, we build a toolkit we can readily draw upon to navigate stressors or de-escalate conflicts.