Community, Events, Research

Community speaker series focuses on post pandemic well-being

March 09, 2022

The COVID-19 pandemic has been stressful. In particular, children and youth have been the hardest hit with lockdowns and school closures because learning and important resources for children and families have been seriously disrupted.

Education professor Claire Crooks will address these challenges and how post-pandemic well-being can be achieved during the semi-annual Let’s Talk About Education event.

Her presentation will focus on how the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated mental health challenges for many children and youth. She will also stress that everyone – parents, teachers, students, policymakers, friends, families and researchers – needs to be at the table to help children optimize their mental health in a post-pandemic world.

“This has been such an unprecedented journey, and what we need coming out of this is also high levels of compassion for our children who are navigating these challenges and also compassion for parents and educators because everyone has been impacted,” Crooks said.  

The event takes place April 12 from 7-8 p.m. ET via Zoom when she presents, ‘Focusing on relationships as an evidence-based approach to promoting post-pandemic well-being and achievement.’

As part of her presentation, Crooks will highlight how the pandemic has created disproportionate outcomes for marginalized groups. For example, Crooks cites the potential struggles refugee families face as they could be reminded of difficult times, such as lining up for food or having their movements restricted or not having access to resources. Often, it’s schools – when they’re open – that provide community resources to families.  

In addition, Crooks said it’s important for schools to focus on mental health because when they emphasize it along with numeracy and literacy, students achieve academic success.

“Our brains aren’t hardwired for the stress of a pandemic,” Crooks said. “But understanding the neurobiology of stress can help children’s well-being.”

She added neighbours, mentors and coaches can also help children get back to the best version of themselves.

Crooks, the Director of the Centre for School Mental Health, will use examples from the Centre to show how Western researchers partner with educators and community members to apply research for children’s benefit. She will highlight the ‘MindUp’ program, which focuses on social emotional learning and relationships.

Her research found that children who received this teacher-led intervention in their kindergarten classes had more positive outcomes and less problematic behaviours, such as acting out and internalizing, and they had better executive functioning, which is needed for people to learn how to make good decisions. She added this training also helped educators because those that implemented it had lower levels of burnout and higher self-efficacy in the classroom.

Let’s Talk About Education is a complimentary speaker series open to the general public where Education researchers share their work and facilitate discussion around important topics in education. This seminar is intended for a general audience, and all members of the London community are invited to attend. Teachers, parents, and other education system stakeholders are encouraged to participate. 

To attend the event, please visit the Western Education website to get the Zoom meeting link.