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While our teachers have been strengthening students academically in our virtual classrooms, our guidance counselors have been helping them stay mentally and physically sharp, and ready to learn.

That's essential for Lower School students during the COVID-19 pandemic, when they are apt to be frustrated with changes in their daily lives, and anxious about what the future holds.

For that reason, guidance counselors Susan Duquette and Katie Aladj have been working closely with students during Distance Learning. Like physical education and music, they're part of the Lower School resource schedule, holding live Zoom meetings. They've created web pages for all six grade levels that include weekly lessons, wellness activities, and more.

They're also available for Zoom or phone conferences with parents; email addresses for all our guidance counselors are on our COVID-19 updates page.

Mrs. Duquette and Ms. Aladj have four main pieces of advice to help children continue to succeed in this uncertain time: Open the conversation and allow them to talk about their emotions; create and stick to a daily schedule; focus on wellness; and refocus extra energy and time into doing good.

Open the conversation 

The counselors are helping children identify and label their feelings, whether they be disappointment, stress, sadness, grief, or any other emotion. They advise being honest, limiting exposure to media that harp on the current pandemic, and using age-appropriate facts to guide the discussion.

“A great way to do that is with literature," said Ms. Aladj, the counselor for grades 1-3. She has used popular children's books like The Invisible String by Patrice Karse; I am Yoga: A Book About Mindfulness by Susan Verde; and The Good Egg by John Jory and Pete Oswald in her lessons to open discussions about feelings.

Create a daily routine

“Routine and schedule are critical for general and physical well being," said Mrs. Duquette, counselor for grades 4-6 and a Lower School Assistant Director. They provide security and comfort at a time when those things might be hard to find. 

In the morning, that means keeping the same wake-up time each day, eating breakfast, and getting dressed. After Distance Learning classes, that means going outside to walk, jog, or simply play in the yard. Such activities reduce stress and provide energy. 

At night, children might want to help their parents prepare or cook dinner - developing a skill that's always valuable. They can bring closure to their day by doing some of the same activities they do when they're coming to school on campus, like taking a bath and reading.  

Focus on wellness

The counselors created Lower School Guidance Bingo as a fun way for children in all grades to find different activities that promote wellness. Among the exercises in the game: Take a walk outside with family; sort your toys and clean your play room; and do something kind for your parents. 

Younger students this year have been introduced to mindfulness, the art of focusing on the present to build resiliency and reduce stress. The guidance web pages offer many activities to help accomplish this goal. In addition, Ms. Aladj has this advice: Eat healthy; get outside; and stay connected with family and friends through Zoom, phone calls, or writing letters.

Refocus extra energy and time into doing good

Write thank you notes to medical personnel, or make them goody bags. Paint a kindness rock. Read a book to a younger sibling. Help mom and dad with household chores. 

“Remember that all your good deeds, no matter how small, make a difference," Mrs. Duquette said. They're appreciated by those on the receiving end. And they'll make you feel better.

For more COVID-19 resources for parents, please visit our website.


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