Better Student Mental Health Starts with Family Engagement :SEL - Ready4K®

By Rebecca Honig, director of content and curriculum

We’ve all seen the headlines lately: student mental health has become a national priority out of necessity. Students and their families are having a hard time, and educators like you are working tirelessly to meet these new mental health needs.

As family engagement specialists, the ParentPowered Ready4K team has been uniquely privileged to hear directly from parents about what their kids – your students – are feeling and experiencing.

We’ve drawn on these caregiver insights to provide recommendations you can use to offer the mental health support your students and their families need right now.

1. Student Mental Health Starts with Caregivers

Caregivers have so many insights to share. Insights about how their child is doing, about how their child is feeling. About their hopes and dreams for the year to come, and about their fears.

To access those insights, look for opportunities to hear family voices. For example, you might bring families together virtually to learn together, share insights and share strategies. 

Check out this webinar where we detail how to host a Can’t Miss Virtual Family Engagement event specifically designed to maximize family participation. 

Or this webinar where we dive into strategies for getting helpful parent feedback

2. Basic Needs Impact on Mental Health

We all know that it’s extremely difficult to manage stress and anxiety when our basic needs are not met. Yet, even when we know a number to call or a place to go to get what we need, there can be so many barriers to reaching out. These strategies for connecting families with basic needs and assistance programs are a great place to start. And, if you haven’t downloaded our Basic Needs and Mental Health shareable, make sure to download a copy here to share with families.

3. Focus on Family Strengths

You set parents and caregivers up for success when you leverage their strengths. You want parents to read the tips or activities you share and think, “I CAN DO THAT!”

To achieve this:

  • Layer activities onto things you know families are already doing
  • Offer activities that use resources you know families already have. 
  • Use accessible terms and language. 
  • Make sure your supports and suggestions reflect the lived experiences of your families.
  • Offer ideas that celebrate your families’ cultures and unique identities. 

On this webinar we dive into strategies for reaching families in strength-based ways.

Or check out this blog post where we highlight mental health supports that we think are ESPECIALLY USER FRIENDLY.

4. Prioritize KEY Skills to Boost Mental Health

It’s quite easy to get overwhelmed by just how much there is to be done when it comes to closing gaps created by the pandemic. When it comes to family engagement in education, prioritize the skills you know families need and want most. 

You might look to the family feedback above as you start building your roadmap of support. 

Or check out this webinar we gave on reaching families with mental health supports.

5. Bring A Trauma Informed Lens TO EVERYTHING

The pandemic, in and of itself was a trauma we all endured. It also exacerbated so many of the traumas and inequities that families ALREADY experience.  

For actionable ideas you can use, read about the process we followed in building a trauma-informed family engagement program to support student and family mental health.

6. Celebrate Self Care and Mental Health for ALL the Grownups

Breathe Deep

That means you too! The more we grownups take care of our mental health, the better we’ll be able to support the social and emotional needs of children.

Finally, here are some simple self care tricks you might try (the ones you won’t read about in magazines). 

7. Reach Out for Support

The Parent Powered Ready4K team has been providing trauma-informed support to families for years. Reach out to us if you’d like a little help giving families practical insights, actions, and resources to support mental health and buffer the impact of trauma. We’re currently accepting applications for the Equity Grant, which makes the program accessible to every community.

Grant for organizations serving economically disadvantaged families. Covers up to 100% of year one Ready4K costs.

Looking for more resources to bolster student mental health? Explore this research round-up for stories and inspirations from the field.

If there’s one thing we’ve all learned since 2020, it’s that to serve kids well, families and educators need to support one another. Yes, kids need more mental health support than ever. But with the collaborative power of families and educators, we can shift from surviving to thriving.

This is an excerpt from a post originally published in March, 2021. You can view the original post at this link.

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