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COVID-19 made student mental health a priority. Here's what that should look like in school.

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fairly difficult
Is your kid getting the mental health support they need at school?
When children walk through a school's doors, counselor Tinisha Parker, Ph.D., understands that they're not just carrying backpacks and lunchboxes. She knows that kids are also shouldering invisible burdens like anxious thoughts, homelessness, food insecurity, bullying, traumatic grief, parental pressure to excel, or the emotional absence of parents who are overwhelmed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Parker, executive director of student services for Gwinnett County Public Schools in Georgia, says many students face daunting challenges but haven't yet developed the skills to handle their feelings and experiences. Schools, however, have a critical opportunity to address kids' mental health and well-being, says Parker.

"Our educators are to understand that those dynamics are happening and that your kids are walking into your classroom and into your counseling offices with a lot of things in their backpacks that aren't books and aren't pencil and paper, a lot of underlying things that are going to get in the way of education," says Parker, who is also chair of the board for the American School Counselor Association.

Now that a third pandemic school year is underway, parents should pay close attention to the mental health resources available at their child's school. The American Rescue Plan, passed by Congress earlier this year, allocated billions of dollars for schools to return to in-person learning. Some of that money can be used to hire mental health staff, like school counselors and psychologists. But parents might be surprised to learn that hiring professionals is just one of several aspects that are vital to supporting students' emotional needs. Other elements include an inclusive school culture and an approach known as social and emotional learning, which helps kids identify and manage their feelings, among other skills.

Here are four things parents should consider when it comes to their child's mental health at school:

1. Check for stigma

While parents might…
Rebecca Ruiz
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