The counseling team started this year with a mix of emotions. There is a sense of pride in the resilience demonstrated by the students, who are visibly relieved to be back in classrooms full time, learning alongside their peers and establishing new yet familiar school day routines. But the counselors also detect underlying anxiety as students navigate this new chapter.
“Since March 2020 we have all gone through so many waves and seasons, so many gains and losses,” reflects Lower School Psychologist Karen Beja. Families have had to get creative in terms of looking at home—redefining what it means for them, just to manage. This sometimes means loosening rules and routines in order to obtain flexibility and balance.
And although the return to full-time, in-person learning is clearly a joy for many students, it has triggered new issues. “Students are having more separation anxiety, especially those who were remote last year,” Karen explains. “The loss of socialization really affected some students. Some are struggling to build friendships again.”
Karen advises families to be aware of changes in their child’s behavior, and to focus on community building. “How can we reconnect and rebuild while still maintaining safety?” It’s important to get back to basics and to establish routines that support adults as well as students.
Middle School Psychologist Jordyn Conrad agrees that the middle schoolers are also very happy to be back at Summit full time, although the changes from last year have been a big adjustment for them.
The middle school counseling team holds small-group “quiet lunches” so students can decompress and have a quick check-in with counseling or with each other. Counseling is also available throughout the day for students who need to take a break and recalibrate. “We are always listening to the needs of students and responding. This is a year of transition and adjustment. We’re versatile.”
“Our program is strong,” says Jordyn. And the SELf (Social Emotional Learning) class that all students take has been invaluable as students reacclimate to our diverse school environment. In SELf class, social-emotional learning is coupled with anti-bias curriculum, guiding students through lessons in individual and group identities, diversity, discrimination, stereotyping, allyship, and inclusivity. Students are learning how to navigate the evolving world and to build empathy and awareness for those whose life experiences may differ from their own.
Upper School Social Worker Aniru Thomas shares that although he has observed increased anxiety about moving back into the building full time, counseling can already feel the benefits of having all students at Sidney Place each day. “When a student needs support, it is much easier to simply stop by their classroom rather than trying to reach them virtually. This is still not a typical year,” notes Aniru. “But students are happy to be back, and they are more engaged.”
There will be growing pains, but counseling is ready for them. “My message to families is to take it one day at a time. If you are curious about how your child is doing, don’t wait for us to reach out. Connect, inquire, be proactive.”
Aniru’s call to action for families who may be considering therapy is “Just do it. Everyone needs a good listener during these difficult times. As much as we support the students during the school day, they may need additional support from outside. Even if you feel your child is doing well, reach out and connect with counseling to get the pulse. Some students are better reporters than others.”
If families need a place to start in their search for therapy, they should ask their child’s counseling team for recommendations. “There is a lot of demand for therapy right now and providers are booking up very quickly. So take advantage of any leads you can get from a trusted source and jump on them.”
You can reach the counseling teams here:
Lower School: firstname.lastname@example.org
Middle School: email@example.com
Upper School: firstname.lastname@example.org