“Every cloud has a silver lining” as the saying goes, and for the Learning Services – Inclusive Learning team at the Delta School District, this has proven to be true. The pandemic caused the team to reassess the support they were offering and how they provided it. This resulted in them providing families significantly more opportunities for support and learning, and creating space for important dialogue around issues like mental health, all of which help to break down the stigma and enable people to get the help they need.
“Before COVID-19, our sessions were focused mainly on substance abuse and prevention,” said Kirsten Hermanson, District Manager, Prevention and School Wellness, Learning Services – Inclusive Learning. “But we’ve seen COVID-19 have a particularly negative impact on families’ mental health and we realized we needed to do more to support our overall community with regards to mental wellness. We also know that by helping the adults in our children’s lives to gain skills and feel supported in dealing with struggles in their own lives, they will be better placed to support their children. As a result, since September we have taken more of an upstream approach by offering sessions aimed at helping parents with stress management and resiliency.”
Hosting the sessions via Zoom has made it more convenient for parents to participate and far easier for the team to organize. The move online has been a resounding success with the team able to reach many more parents than ever before.
Since September 2020, the team has organized 18 free online Zoom parent information sessions, with three of these delivered in Punjabi to support families where English is their second language. Some sessions, such as Managing Mental and Emotional Wellness During COVID-19, Managing Stress in These Uncertain Times, Supporting Students with an IEP and Social Media Awareness, Digital Citizenship and Cyberbullying have been repeated multiple times due to demand. In total, more than 1,000 parents/guardians have been involved in these sessions. In comparison, in the year before COVID-19, the team organized approximately four free in-person parent information sessions a year. Attendance was lower with approximately 100 participants overall.
“In addition to supporting parents with workshops, we take a wraparound approach with our prevention framework which means that we also support students and staff with health and wellness sessions. For example, we have introduced mental health curriculum for students and have trained more than 900 staff in trauma-informed practice since September,” said Kirsten.
After Spring Break, the team will be hosting more workshops for parents/guardians. The first one, Exploring our Relationship with Alcohol and Other Substances During Stressful Times, is being presented in partnership with Tempest and is scheduled for April 8 from 6p.m. to 7:30p.m. Click this link for more information, including how to register.
Additional workshops planned (dates to be confirmed) include:
- Safe Teen – Navigating Adolescence
- Collaborative Change – Beyond Behaviour: A Relationship-Based Approach to Understanding Your Child’s Needs During the Pandemic
- Hearing From Our Youth – An Evening Discussion with Young People on their Stress and How They Manage
As each event is confirmed, it will be added to the District’s events calendar: https://www.deltasd.bc.ca/events-calendar Events will also be publicized on the District’s social media channels.
“We are always open to feedback so if there are topics of interest that parents would like to see us address, we encourage them to get in touch. Parents can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org,” said Kirsten.