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Reduce Student Anxiety (and Your Own) During Uncertain Times

Tips and resources for news literacy, media balance, and healthy communication.

Erin Wilkey Oh | March 13, 2020

Given the uncertainty we're all experiencing due to the coronavirus outbreak, it's not easy to "keep calm and carry on," as teachers are expected to do. Most are preparing for (or already experiencing) a school closure. And students are worried as they try to make sense of the quickly changing situation.

To help reduce students' anxiety and your own about the COVID-19 pandemic, we've put together some ideas and resources focused on news literacy, media balance, and healthy communication. We hope they're helpful as you navigate this difficult time.

Talk about it.

Avoiding conversations about the coronavirus will only increase students' anxiety. It's important for kids of all ages to talk through what they're hearing and get developmentally appropriate information from a trusted adult. Helpful resources to try:

Focus on the facts.

For lots of students, their anxiety about the coronavirus is the result of incomplete or incorrect information. Talk through the facts about the coronavirus in an age-appropriate way. For older students, share the CDC website for the most up-to-date information on the outbreak. Helpful resources to try:

Build critical-thinking and news literacy skills.

Social media can be a hotbed of rumors and misinformation -- even more so when people are acting and reacting from a place of fear. Guide students to credible news sources and encourage them to fact-check what they see on social media or hear from their friends about the coronavirus. If you have time to add some news literacy instruction, consider teaching a lesson so kids can practice these skills. Helpful lessons to try (modify for target grade as needed)

Model and encourage media balance.

With this quickly evolving situation, we may be compelled to keep up with the latest headlines. But given the upheaval the coronavirus is creating across the world, this constant stream of updates might make us feel uncertain, anxious, or even afraid. It's important for you and your students to reflect on how your media use makes you feel, and adjust your habits if needed. Helpful lessons to try (modify for target grade as needed):

Stay active and have some fun.

When we're feeling worried or stressed, a little distraction goes a long way. Incorporating some physical activity into the school day can be a fun way to lighten the mood and get students' minds off the outbreak. From how-to dance videos to yoga for kids, you can find easy-to-implement activities to get students' bodies moving and their minds calm. Helpful resources to try:

Support parents and caregivers.

If parents and caregivers are stressed, kids are going to pick up on it. While it's not your job to manage parents' anxiety, it is important to be mindful of its impact on your students. Keep the lines of communication open as you deal with school closures (or at least the fear of them). And pass along resources and tips for parents and caregivers to help them deal with the uncertainty of the situation in a healthy way. Helpful resources to share:

If you have specific questions about digital citizenship or teaching with technology during the coronavirus pandemic, feel free to send them to our editors at [email protected] and write "Seeking resources to deal with coronavirus" in the subject line.