Schools are community cornerstones. Each school works with students, families, and the community to prepare youngsters to be contributing members of society. In the midst of the continuing global pandemic, schools need to adapt to support family wellness. Providing understanding, resources, and being available for their constituents, schools need to add another layer of support that goes beyond students and extends to their families.
Why is Family Wellness Important?
COVID-19 has impacted many families’ physical, mental, and financial health and continues to challenge people in a manner that has never been experienced. In addition, with hybrid models, distance learning, and even in-person learning, families are now entrenched in the school lives of their child. As a result, parents are taking a much more active role in their child’s education. With the majority of students learning from home last spring and the continued support of students in remote learning, there is a larger involvement than in the past. Family wellness is vitally important as all people perform best when they are healthy, fed, well rested, and confident.
Students need stability, routine, and the knowledge that things around them are under control. Supporting families so they can provide this confidence to students is essential. Keeping the family well and providing supports so families can overcome struggles that are being encountered will only transfer into student success. While it may seem to be an additional role for schools, it is just an extension of schools doing what they can to support their learners.
What Should You Be Asking About and How Frequently?
The only way to know which families need wellness support is by checking on them. It’s a fine line between inquiring to help and overburdening families with questions. Therefore, it should be a very clear, objective process so families know that the intent is to help. Some families have never needed support before and may be reticent to accept help. However, this can be countered with knowing that the goal is to help.
Biweekly check-ins make the most sense to survey families. It would be routine enough that parents can expect it, yet not frequent enough to overwhelm recipients with endless information. Potential questions could include:
- Have there been any changes to your situation due to COVID-19 or related events?
- Do you need information or support to assist in any of these areas:
- Emotional support
- Learning resources
- COVID Testing
- Is there anything you need that you don’t have?
- Any other information you would like us to know?
All of these steps should be clear and public. It should be announced in a monthly newsletter initially and housed on a public website so families have the resources available and know that this is part of the school’s mission to support family wellness.
Ways to Check on Family Wellness
While typical educational processes such as speaking with children and monitoring attendance and engagement will yield information, the school needs to take an active role to help identify other potential needs that families may have. However, with our extreme situation, schools need to be more active in getting input. Here are a few examples of ways to check in with families:
- Email – In periodic emails from administration or mental health services, the school should actively provide information to help families and a way for parents/caregivers to contact the school if support is needed. By sending something via email, it allows more of a personal connection. Having different people sending similar messages may also gain different information as community members may better identify with different staff members.
- Website – Some of the wellness information is static. This information, which might include testing sites or food resources, can be posted and remain at a central school website location. This also can serve as a reference for staff members to provide families that may need support.
- Texts – There are many services that offer mass SMS or texting that can reach people in a different manner.
- Phone Calls – With careful planning, staff may divide up the student population and reach out to families on the phone. The live interaction may encourage people to be more open if help is needed.
If students have a healthy environment around them, they will be more available to learn. Reaching out to families to see what supports are needed will strengthen the bonds between home and school, which in turn allows for student success.