Helping students navigate in COVID-19 outbreak

by Ellen Johnston | Published: 00:00, Jan 17,2021


PARENTS may notice their students’ lives have been affected in many ways. Students understandably feel overwhelmed right now with the pandemic, online learning, and being physically distanced from their friends and usual routines.

While continuing to learn online, students are asked to adapt to multiple online tools, which may feel like digital overload. Being at home, teenagers are not interacting with classmates in person, which may lead to feelings of isolation. They’re experiencing little to no peer-to-peer connection.

Going to school provides kids with a routine, which your student needs to create at home now. Some students appear to have established a school routine that includes waking up before 8:00am classes; others are not.


Help students maintain perspective

STUDENTS like adults may be inundated with updates from news sources and social media as the global situation continues to evolve. It’s normal for students to feel overwhelmed and anxious during their final years of high school, not just during a global pandemic but also as students navigate college/university applications and evolving standardised testing requirements. Take the time to acknowledge your student’s questions and concerns. It always helps to base your discussions on facts rather than speculation.

Remember: adults might feel overwhelmed and anxious, too! Take care of yourself so you can better support your student.


Keep students engaged

WITH the regular exams and timelines, educators and parents alike are concerned about student engagement and motivation. Some students may be used to relying on tests and exams to set personal goals, measure success, and validate their learning.

With most extracurricular activities cancelled, students may be missing the regular opportunities they have to explore their interests or as an outlet for stress relief.

Keep in mind that every student is different. Some teenagers may thrive on unstructured time; others may not. If your student isn’t coping well with extended periods at home, encourage your student to work on a passion project they may want to take on through their initiative and how you might support them with brainstorming ideas.

Remember: your student’s projects should be based on their passions, and the unique zeal may catch the university admissions staff’s attention when students explain it in their extracurricular section of the college application.


Keep track of changing university policies

YOUR student had likely applied to universities and might have already received a response from them. If not, they might expect to receive it in the coming weeks. Of course, you and your student may be worried about COVID-19’s impact on university admissions. How might changes to exams affect the offers? Might universities change the admissions decisions they have already made? What if my family’s financial circumstances have changed?

First things first — take a moment to help your student celebrate any offers of admission that they have received! This is a huge accomplishment and recognition of your student’s ability and potential. Ultimately, what’s happening with university admissions at the moment is no reflection on them!

Secondly, keep in mind that this situation is new for everyone, including your student’s university counsellor and university admissions teams. Information is evolving, and college counsellors are keeping up with university changes by attending virtual events.

Your questions and concerns are valid and essential. Still, universities and counsellors may need some time to learn about changes, put policies in place, and organise communications before they may be able to dedicate time to advise on individual cases confidently.

Remember: students are completing applications now for universities in Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Singapore, the United Kingdom, and the United States.


Help your student celebrate milestones

GRADUATING from school is a huge milestone for your student and family; however, what graduation will look like remains uncertain. But that’s no reason not to celebrate those key milestones anyway!

Consider ways to keep your student connected with their school community and continue to celebrate the milestones associated with their final year.

Consider the teachers that have had a significant impact on your student. Sending an email of encouragement from you or your student to thank them could be a way to celebrate what we’ve accomplished so far this year. That email of encouragement could go a long way in helping teachers feel supported by school communities.


Ellen Johnston is college counsellor at the International School Dhaka.

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