‘They are not alone:’ CUSD counselors are available to help

By Elysse James

Students and parents have suddenly found their lives upended as the school district, cities, and the nation respond to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

In times like these, it’s OK to need a little extra help.

Counselors at all levels in Capistrano Unified are available to assist as students and parents navigate this new terrain.

“We want them to know they are not alone in this process,” said Shiree Webb, one of two counselors at San Clemente High School serving the school’s 3,000 students. “We are here to support them… with flexibility on everybody’s part we can get through this and help our students achieve success.”

At Bernice Ayer Middle School, counselors are surveying students and families to learn how they’re handling the situation and what they are experiencing. Once they receive the filled-out surveys, they reach out to anyone who may have concerns, academic or otherwise, said Joyce Ann Toledo, a counselor at Bernice Ayer Middle School. She serves about 930 students.

“We’re all trying to tag team and figure out how we can best support students and families during this time,” Toledo said, adding that students who do have concerns during this time tend to be worried because they or a loved one have a medical condition and they are concerned about returning to school or about potentially contracting the virus.

“Even though we’re doing this virtually, we’re all in it together and we have the space to talk to each other and support each other and feel like we’re not alone,” Toledo said.

Parents’ main concern, she said, is balancing working from home, while students need guidance and direction.

“None of us have ever been through this,” Toledo said. “There’s no manual as to how to manage something like this.”

At the high school level, students report feeling anxious and uncertain about how to proceed, Webb said. Counselors are checking in with students daily.

“They feel alone,” Webb said. “It’s a lot for kids used to being in extracurricular activities and being social to suddenly find themselves with all this time on their hands. It can be difficult.”

She suggests creating a schedule for students to mimic the bell schedule they were accustomed to, and to engage in family activities like cooking together.

“It’s OK to accept that things are different and it’s OK to experience some negative thinking,” Webb said. “But right now, it’s important to accept this to a degree and be mindful that negative thinking can spiral out of control and cause things to seem more difficult than they really are.”

Students can hold virtual meetings with their counselors to touch base or get help with academics or mental health needs at all levels of education in CUSD.

“Whatever it is that we’re going through — happy, relieved to be at home, confused, and scared — it’s important to know its valid and we’re all going through different emotions and that’s OK,” Toledo said. “Whatever you’re going through, that’s OK.”

Tips for students and families

  • Create a schedule and expectations for what should be accomplished each day.
  • Schedule breaks for students so they’re not in front of the computer for multiple hours in a row.
  • As much as possible, create a designated “classroom” area with resources and books ready for students to do their work.
  • Working parents/guardians can put a sign on their door to say “do not disturb” or “meeting in progress” when they need privacy.
  • Even better, allow students to see adults modeling good work ethic. “This is not a time to disengage and leave them in a room alone,” Webb said. “It’s the opposite.”
  • Move your body every day. Help manage stress through deep breathing, muscle relaxation, mindfulness meditation, and yoga exercises.
  • Find a way to be creative through art, music, or dance.
  • For parents, meet children where they are. “We’re all going to feel different things at different times. Validate what they’re going through,” Toledo said.
  • Engage in healthy eating and limit unhealthy snacks.

Stay Connected with CUSD

Follow CUSD on Facebook and Instagram + subscribe to the CUSD Insider YouTube channel for fun and interactive activities!

More resources for supporting students during COVID-19: 

Capistrano Unified STEAM partners pivot to online learning with creative at-home projects for kids

Capistrano Unified reminds families “we’re all in this together”

Kaiser Pediatrician talks COVID-19 with Capistrano Unified

Capistrano Unified Principals engage students virtually during COVID-19 closures

Social distancing for kids in the age of COVID-19, Capistrano Unified shares resources

Sharing is caring!