For the latest information from APS regarding mental health resources during the COVID-19 pandemic, please visit the APS mental health resources page.
School counselors, social workers, and psychologists are often in positions to provide support to students during crises or times of individual and/or societal stress. If schools close, students will not have access to these supports. Student Services is compiling resources for parents, guardians, and caregivers to use. These resources include educational materials to be used to help parents/guardians:
- Provide factual information at a developmentally appropriate level
- Ensure that students are shielded from unnecessary stress due misinformation or information that is developmentally inappropriate,
- Teach appropriate preventative strategies (such as hand-washing, social distancing, etc.)
- Recognize, understand and respond to signs of distress and anxiety in children and youth
Student Services staff will be preparing for students to return to school by having in place procedures to support students who may have residual concerns about the virus, who may have difficulty returning to school, or who exhibit difficulties with any aspect of resuming attendance.
If a child or youth experiences a behavioral health crisis which creates an unsafe situation for themselves or others in the home, parents/guardians should:
- Call 9-1-1 if there is an immediate danger to self or others.
- Contact Arlington Emergency Services at 703-228-5160 (link here).
- Go to the nearest Emergency Room.
For non-urgent, but concerning behavior, please see resources at Arlington Children’s Behavioral Health here.
APS Career Center staff have compiled a list of food and other resources for families during school closings, including information regarding health & mental health care, housing, food, technology, and general resources that may be valuable to anyone.
If you’re looking for a WiFi connection outside of your home, such as one you can use from inside your car, consider using the Virginia WiFi Hotspot Locator.
Efforts have been made to create materials across content areas and grade levels, as well as to ensure access is available to all students. These materials are provided as ungraded assignments which will be used as formative assessments or reviews of previously taught content. The intent is for students to stay on track with their instructional progress. There is no intent for students to master new material during a school closure.
Students who have been receiving accommodations due to disabling conditions, who also need accommodations in the area of accessing online material should have already in their accommodation plans or Individualized Educational Program (IEP) any necessary accommodations to access school materials from home. However, if a barrier that was previously not known is discovered during the period of closure, parents/guardians and/or students may take the following steps:
- Notify, by e-mail, the teacher of the online class, describing in detail the problem that has been encountered.
- Notify the case carrier or case manager identified on the IEP or 504 plan.
- Notify the school administrator identified as the Local Education Agency (LEA) representative on the IEP or 504 plan.
School staff will make efforts to trouble-shoot the issue, once they receive the notice. There are no specific timelines for responding, and not all issues will be able to be resolved remotely. Therefore, students with disabilities under Section 504 or IDEA, will not be penalized or otherwise negatively impacted if they are unable to access, participate, or complete any material associated with their classes.
Talking about COVID-19
Concern over the Coronavirus (COVID-19) can make children and families anxious. While we don’t know where and to what extent the disease may spread here in the United States, we do know that it is contagious, that the severity of illness can vary from individual to individual, and that there are steps we can take to prevent the spread of infection. Acknowledging some level of concern, without panicking, is appropriate and can result in taking actions that reduce the risk of illness. Helping children cope with anxiety requires providing accurate prevention information and facts without causing undue alarm. It is very important to remember that children look to adults for guidance on how to react to stressful events. If parents seem overly worried, children’s anxiety may rise. Parents should reassure children that health and school officials are working hard to ensure people throughout the country stay healthy. However, children also need factual, age appropriate information about the potential seriousness of disease risk and concrete instruction about how to avoid infections and spread of disease. Teaching children positive preventive measures, talking with them about their fears, and giving them a sense of some control over their risk of infection can help reduce anxiety. The National Association of School Psychologists and National Association of School Nurses offers the following guidelines when talking with children:
Remain calm and reassuring. Children will react to and follow your verbal and nonverbal reactions.
- What you say and do about COVID-19, current prevention efforts, and related events can either increase or decrease your children’s anxiety.
- If true, emphasize to your children that they and your family are fine.
- Remind them that you and the adults at their school are there to keep them safe and healthy.
- Let your children talk about their feelings and help reframe their concerns into the appropriate perspective.
Make yourself available.
- Children may need extra attention from you and may want to talk about their concerns, fears, and questions.
- It is important that they know they have someone who will listen to them; make time for them.
- Tell them you love them and give them plenty of affection.
Avoid excessive blaming.
- When tensions are high, sometimes we try to blame someone.
- It is important to avoid stereotyping any one group of people as responsible for the virus.
- Bullying or negative comments made toward others should be stopped and reported to the school. See additional resources below for APS information on harassment and bullying.
- Be aware of any comments that other adults are having around your family. You may have to explain what comments mean if they are different than the values that you have at home.
Monitor television viewing and social media.
- Limit television viewing or access to information on the Internet and through social media. Try to avoid watching or listening to information that might be upsetting when your children are present.
- Speak to your child about how many stories about COVID-19 on the Internet may be based on rumors and inaccurate information.
- Talk to your child about factual information of this disease—this can help reduce anxiety.
- Constantly watching updates on the status of COVID-19 can increase anxiety—avoid this.
- Be aware that developmentally inappropriate information (i.e., information designed for adults) can cause anxiety or confusion, particularly in young children.
- Engage your child in games or other interesting activities instead.
Maintain a normal routine to the extent possible.
- Keep to a regular schedule, as this can be reassuring and promotes physical health.
- Encourage your children to keep up with their schoolwork and extracurricular activities, but don’t push them if they seem overwhelmed.
Be honest and accurate.
- In the absence of factual information, children often imagine situations far worse than reality.
- Don’t ignore their concerns, but rather explain that at the present moment very few people in this country are sick with COVID-19.
- Children can be told this disease is thought to be spread between people who are in close contact with one another—when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
- It is also thought it can be spread when you touch an infected surface or object, which is why it is so important to protect yourself.
- Talking to Children About COVID-19 (Coronavirus): A Parent Resource
- Coronavirus – BrainPOP
- What Kids Want To Know About Coronavirus: An Original Comic : Goats and Soda : NPR
- How to Talk to Younger Kids About Coronavirus
- Child Mind Institute: Parent Advice for Addressing the Coronavirus
- The Yucky Bug by Julia Cook
When students are observed engaging in behaviors like bullying or harassment related to coronavirus or COVID-19, staff or parents/guardians should respond promptly.
Consider any possible underlying anxiety the student who engaged in bullying or harassment behavior may have and respond with reassurance while setting limits for acceptable behavior. Don’t give false reassurance; don’t make promises or misleading statements (e.g., “that student is here because they don’t have coronavirus” or “they don’t let students come to school if they have it”).
Set clear expectations for behavior, such as it is “never OK to say mean or hurtful things to another person.” If the behavior continues, reiterate the message, and follow the APS bullying policy and procedure, outlined below, including contacts parents/guardians of students involved. Bullying is not ever OK and should be addressed promptly.
To report bullying, fill out the Discovery Bullying Reporting Form.
Per APS Policy J-6.8.1, school administrators will document reports of bullying, investigate the complaint, and address the concerns. You can access additional information about addressing bullying and racism related to COVID-19 here.