The American Psychiatric Association acknowledged in 1954 that there is a need to intervene when individuals experience stress caused by environmental reasons. Today, research supports the idea that immediate, concise, and focused intervention can decrease the social and emotional distress after a traumatic event. This is done by inaugurating the feelings of physical and emotional safety among children and adults. Therefore, this article will focus on summarizing the Psychological First Aid for Schools: Listen Protect Connect (LPC) Model and Teach.
Step 1 – Listen
Teachers should allow their students to share their experiences and feelings of worry, anxiety, fear, or concerns about their safety. The teachers should establish rapport and a trust with the student by engaging in their interest and empathy. Students should also know it’s safe and okay to share their experiences. Here, the teachers can ask the following questions:
- Tell me how you have been affected by the stay at home orders during the pandemic?
- What is your schedule like from Monday through Friday?
Step 2 – Protect
The school staff should try to establish feelings of emotional and physical safety among their students. This can be done by offering information, such as what is being done in the community and the school to keep everyone safe. Here, the school staff can ask the following questions:
- Are you worried about your safety or the safety of others?
- What are you most worried about right now?
Step 3 – Connect
One of the biggest concern for people who have experienced trauma is the fear of emotional and social isolation. In this step, teachers help students to get back into their normal relationships in order to receive social support. This can be done via online learning environments which promote a sense of belonging and stability. Here, teachers can ask the following questions:
- What can your friends or family do to help you?
- What do you think you can do to make things better?
Step 4 – Model
In this step, the teachers acknowledge the disruption to school and many other aspects of daily life. They also acknowledge the needs of students and others around them when they “get back to normal.” This means that teachers should demonstrate a positive and enthusiastic approach to a new normal by showing that they can effectively cope with the stress despite the fear or loss they’ve experienced. Here, they can say the following things:
- Thank you for the courage you have shown throughout the process and for sharing your concerns with me.
- Let’s brainstorm some of the ways other students and adults are coping.
Step 5 – Teach
In this step, teachers and psychologists focus on teaching common reactions to the emergency event or disaster. They discuss constructive ways of adapting and coping to new challenges and the change because students may have a more difficult time learning during or after a crisis. Here are the list of common reactions among children that may cause them new worries and distress:
- Emotional reactions: increased worries and fears about health and safety
- Behavioural reactions: decreased attention, changes in sleep, and mood
- Cognitive reactions: repeated questions about the event & trauma reminders
- Physical reactions: increase startle response, somatic complaints i.e., headaches, stomachaches, lack of appetite, tired
How to Engage Parents and Caregivers of Students of Concern (SOC)
Here are the list of questions that teachers can ask parents and caregivers of students during the COVID-19 pandemic:
- I have been thinking about [name the student] and wondering how you and/or your family are doing?
- How have you and your family been impacted by pandemic and all the shutdowns?
- So who is all home now?
- Has it been possible for [name the student] to find some time to do some schoolwork?
While asking these questions, teachers should focus on improving adult-to-adult relationships. The genuine connections you make with the parents and caregivers will lay the groundwork for your success with their child (student) as well. It is also important to understand who may be able to offer support to a student and who may have elevating family anxiety.Due to this, make sure you have such discussions with the parents. Use the final phase of your conversation to summarize everything you talked about. Remember, if you do have a difficult conversation with a family, consult with your supervisor, colleagues, Whole Child Wellness support team, and other teachers in order to decide the right course of action.
Wong, M, (2020). Psychological First Aid (PFA) for Schools, Teachers, and Students. North American Center for Threat Assessment and Trauma Response. Retrieved from http://nactatr.com/files/2020NACTATR-PFA.pdf
Cameron, J.K., Wong, M., & Rivard, P.G. (2020). Appendix B- Guidelines: For Administrators in Support of their Teachers and Staff: How to Engage Parents and Caregivers of Students of Concern (SOC). North American Center for Threat Assessment and Trauma Response. Retrieved from http://nactatr.com/files/2020NACTATR-RCApxB.pdf