Rising to the Challenge and Counseling During Covid 

At M’KIS, the wellbeing of our students and families is an important priority. This year, more than ever before, our School Counselors have played a vital role in caring for our community members as we deal with changes and challenges, adjust to online learning, and learn how to move forward together during the pandemic.

In Elementary School, we have also developed a new Counseling Protocol to help guide families as they choose the counseling services most valuable for them.  From Check-in Counseling and Short-term Counseling for individual students, to Small Group Counseling for groups, we are excited to provide the highest level of support to our Elementary School students through a variety of counseling options.

We recently spoke with Ms. Lambinon, our Elementary School Counselor, to discuss what we have learned about supporting students and families in the last year. Read on for more!

 There’s no doubt that the pandemic has put extra pressure on everyone. How have you been approaching this period so you can support the wide array of concerns during this time?

I am always available to meet (either in person or virtually) with all of our families and students who need counseling support. This can be for a quick check-in, but also to brainstorm about strategies to adjust to our current situation, both at school and at home. Besides individual support, I have worked with all of our Grade 1-5 students in class to discuss a variety of topics. We've talked about why it’s so important to share, express, and manage our feelings.

I also host monthly Counselor’s Corners about topics that are relevant to our families. These meetings are extremely valuable because they give families the opportunity to share their experiences with one another. Staying connected to others and learning from common experiences is the best way to get through this.

Since we have all been at home more than usual, the last year has impacted everyone in a different way. For many families, it meant adjusting their schedules, routines, and expectations. As a counselor, I'm here to support our families as they deal with change during this time. It’s amazing to see how all of our families are so resilient and are doing the best they can to support one another!

During times of crisis and stress like the pandemic, students can face an extra anxiety and challenging emotions. What are some of the tools you use with students to help them cope with changes in their routine and the stress of the pandemic?

It’s important for students to understand that the last year has been very different than what we are used to, and that it will not always look like this. Things will change over time.

I also want students to feel confident sharing their feelings, and I work with them to make sure they understand that every kind of feeling is ok. I work with students so they can express themselves verbally, via art, games, or other methods. No matter the situation, we are committed to finding a way of working with that student that makes them feel safe and heard. 

For parents, I would encourage them to try to find at least one moment during the day to sit together with your child and connect, so they have an opportunity to express anything they’re struggling with.

What has been the most challenging part of counseling during the pandemic?

As a counselor and as a person, I love to be around other people. I love connecting with everyone in our community and understanding how they are really feeling so I can make sure they’re doing well. This usually means asking a lot of questions, spending time together, and reading non-verbal communication cues like body language.

During the pandemic and virtual learning, this was more challenging. When you’re not in the same room with someone and are not able to interact with them in person, it can be hard to get the information you need. For example, online, you can only see someone’s face and not their body, so you might miss body language clues. Or, you might have a poor internet connection that makes it hard to have a proper conversation.

But, after dealing with the new normal and adjusting to the new reality, I began to get creative and discover new solutions. It was rewarding to be able to support our students and families in new ways during this unique time.

What has been one of the biggest lessons learned after a year of counseling during the pandemic?

My biggest lesson learned is to focus on the things that we can control, and to let go of the things we can’t control. In a situation like this, where things are constantly changing and we may feel out of control more than we are used to, it’s more important than ever to create a sense of control for ourselves. Even if we can’t change a situation, we can still control our mindset and own attitude.

I’ve also learned that people (students, parents & teachers) are incredibly resilient, even more than we could have ever imagined. None of us have any experience dealing with a situation like this, and I am really proud of everyone in our community for all their efforts.

What is one piece of advice you would give to a student or family that is struggling at the moment?

Be kind to yourself! During this time, we all need to adjust some of our old routines or habits. Don’t be too hard on yourself and give yourself time to find your new balance. Also, make sure you share your experiences and feelings with the people around you. It’s important to share your feelings and concerns with each other, to keep an eye on each other, and to make sure everyone is doing well.

And finally, make sure you create some time for yourself to relax and recharge everyday. This could be doing a fun activity by yourself or with a family member, or maybe even taking those 5 minutes to finish your tea when it’s still warm. Self-care is more important than ever.