Personal/Social/Mental Health Resources

Social/emotional support and intervention is a collaboration between administrators, teachers, parents, counselors, school & school psychologists. By building student skills in communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity we prepare students for learning and for life. Our work covers prevention, as well as targeted and intensive intervention for those who need additional support. KPS has a district crisis response team that responds when unfortunate situations occur in our schools.

KPS is staffed with a guidance counselor, nurse, psychologist, teachers, and administrators who are highly trained in supporting students. Through extensive training they are able to assess students at risk for suicide, conflict resolution, bullying, and drug and alcohol abuse education. In addition to these roles, all school staff are taught the signs and symptoms of at-risk behaviors. All staff are here to listen to students.

Further resources and information on bullying, suicide prevention, grief, and more can be found using the menu options on this page.

What is bullying?

Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior that involves a real or perceived imbalance of power. Kids who bully use their power—such as physical strength, access to embarrassing information, or popularity—to control or harm others. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose.

What is cyberbullying?

Instead of happening face-to-face, cyberbullying is bullying that takes place using computers, cell phones and other electronic devices. Examples of cyberbullying include mean text messages or emails, rumors sent by email or posted on social media, and embarrassing pictures, videos, websites, or fake profiles.

We all have a role — how to prevent and/or respond to bullying

All kids involved in bullying—whether they are bullied, bully others, or see bullying — may experience negative outcomes including impacts on mental health, substance use, and suicide.

Parents, school staff, and community members all play an important role in supporting our students when providing for their physical, social and emotional needs. A variety of resources are available regarding bullying/harassment prevention:

StopBullying.Gov (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services): This site provides information from various government agencies on how children, teens, young adults, parents, educators, and community members can prevent or stop bullying.

Cyberbullying.org (Cyberbullying Research Center): The Cyberbullying Research Center offers resources for parents, such as cyberbullying warning signs to watch for; tips for how to prevent cyberbullying; what to do when your child is cyberbullied; and what to do when your child cyberbullies others.

https://www.safe2helpne.org (Nebraska Anonymous Reporting System): provides a safe and easy way to anonymously report any threatening behaviors or activities endangering themselves or someone they know.

Supports in Schools

Staff
KPS staff are highly trained in supporting students. Through extensive training, they are able to assess students at risk for suicide, conflict resolution, bullying, and drug and alcohol abuse education. In addition to these roles, all school staff is taught the signs and symptoms of at-risk behaviors. Our professionals are here to listen to students.

Educational Curriculum
Social-emotional learning (SEL) is not a one-size-fits-all approach in Kenesaw schools. Each school determines which SEL programs addressing bullying will be most effective when considering the needs of their specific school and the ages it serves. Examples of the variety of SEL programming addressing bullying offered throughout the district include Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS), Rachel’s Challenge/ILoveUGuys, and Random Acts of Kindness.

In addition to programming, KPS reinforce protective factors for students and families such as:

  • Promoting positive relationships with adults in school and at home
  • Creating a positive and inclusive culture and climate at the school
  • Teaching adaptive coping and problem-solving skills, including conflict resolution
  • Providing easy access to mental health and health providers
  • Emphasizing the importance of open communication with youth and families
  • District Policy 5415 — Anti-Bullying Policy

A Community of Support After Loss

Death is part of life, but no matter our age, it can be a struggle to deal with the loss of a loved one. It can be especially difficult for young children who are unable to comprehend what has happened or teenagers who are struggling with overwhelming feelings.

Reassuring Children

Caring adults, whether parents, teachers, counselors or friends, can help children during this difficult time. If adults are open, honest and loving, experiencing the loss of someone loved can be a chance for young people to learn about both the joy and pain that comes from caring deeply for others.

Parents and guardians, you are the very best support system in meeting your child’s needs. You can provide the best explanation that fits with your values and beliefs. We encourage families to talk briefly following a loss of life and to acknowledge any feelings that may surface.

Children depend on adults. If we are unavailable for them, they have no one to turn to for help with their confusion, doubts, questions, and fears. Adults need to be able to comfort a child, even if it appears that the child is unaffected by death. Remember, it is more frightening for a child to be sent away than to stay and see a parent or other adult cry because of anguish. If you believe you are unable to comfort your child because of your own grief, find someone who can. Don’t try to deal with the grief of a child if you can’t deal with your own.

The needs of all children at this time include:

  • Clear, understandable, and developmentally appropriate information
  • Reassurance that they are safe
  • The feeling of being involved and cared for
  • Help in identifying and understanding the grief of others around them
  • Acknowledgment of, and respect for, their own thoughts and feelings
  • Continuation of usual interests and activities i.e. school, birthday parties, sports

What to Expect

During this period of sadness, you may notice a variety of reactions from your child. You may find your child unusually talkative or quiet. Your child may ask a lot of questions, be anxious, or may want to cling to you more than usual. These are all signals of the need for a little extra support. You may also notice no reaction from your child, and that is okay too. Children can experience a wide range of feelings and behaviors that are normal when dealing with this kind of tragedy.

Strive to recognize when children are in pain. Death hurts, and children need to be comforted and reassured that someone is there to help them through it. Reassurance is both physical and verbal. Hold your child to comfort them. Reassure them that it’s okay to cry, feel sorry for themselves and talk about their fears.

Check up periodically on how children are coping with their loss. Ask them directly if there is any help you can give. If you offer help, be sure to follow up on what you say you will do.

Remember, children are individuals. They will all grieve differently. Don’t be too quick to tell a child how to grieve. Don’t be surprised if children do not appear to be grieving. Sometimes they are trying to control their feelings.

Talk About It

Encourage children to talk about death. The real question is not whether we should talk to children about death, but when and how. When you talk about death, it is important to include feelings. Don’t be afraid of displaying emotions. In talking with children, especially young ones, it is important to use the words “death, dying, and dead,” and to explain that the body ceases to function. If we talk about death as “sleep,” the child might become afraid to go to bed. Children respect adults who are honest and open about death. Talk about death as permanent without euphemisms, myths, half-truths or fables. They need reassurance that death is NOT a result of their negative thought, feelings, wishes, or actions. If you select materials to help explain death and dying to children, please pay attention to your child’s age and intellectual development.

In the aftermath of a tragedy, it’s normal to feel sadness, anxiety, fear, anger or any mix of these emotions. It’s important to keep an eye on each other and reach out to family, friends or counselors if you notice warning signs that someone is feeling hopeless or depressed. The signs could include withdrawing and isolating oneself, not sleeping or sleeping all the time, increased use of drugs or alcohol and talking about death or dying.

Keep in mind, everyone responds to a tragedy differently. You, your child and children may all have different responses to trauma. Different emotions, such as crying, anger or nervous laughter, are all acceptable ways to react. Children will often be sad one minute and off playing the next. They often bring up the event at times that are unexpected, such as, at the grocery store, in the car or right before you drop them off at a friend’s house.

How to support your child following a tragedy:

Talk to your child: Allow your child to talk about the event. Sharing the event over and over can support their recovery. Take their lead on how much they are talking about or saying. Remind them they are safe and be reassuring. Tips for Parents and Teachers on how to talk to your children about violence.

Spend time together: Children need to feel safe. Taking time to spend together as a family can support recovery. Being together can help children feel safe and connected. Provide extra affection and reassurance.

Reduce exposure to media: This is especially important for young children (ages 4-9), even if they are in the next room. Continued exposure to the coverage of an event can create more anxiety, cause them to believe the event is still occurring and inhibit their ability to move past the trauma.

Keep structures in place at home: Try to maintain similar routines and structures at home, such as regular bedtime, meals and activities as much as possible. Keeping the same family rules can provide comfort in times of tragedy. Although, we often feel like lightening up on rules at this time, providing this structure can help children feel safe and secure.

Teach your child coping strategies and breathing exercises: Teaching your child healthy ways to cope with stress is a great way to support your child. Deep breathing, journaling, drawing a picture, and listening to music are all ways to support their coping. Children will find comfort in learning how you also handle stress in healthy ways.

Access professional help: Seek support right away if your child is having thoughts of suicide or harming themselves, panic attacks, or seeing/hearing things that aren’t there. Your school counselor and/ or school mental health provider is at the school to support your family and discuss more ideas of how to assist your child after a trauma. A number of external resources are available to support students and families in crisis.

Suicide Hotline emergency – dial 988 on any phone

Suicide is a complicated matter that doesn’t have one main cause. Certain factors such as substance abuse, depression or anxiety may prevent a person from thinking clearly about the situation. Sometimes these conditions are not identified or noticed; other times, someone will show obvious symptoms or signs.

Know the signs — The more warning signs the greater the risk.

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself
  • Looking for a way to kill oneself
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose
  • Talking about feeling trapped or being in unbearable pain
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious, agitated, or reckless
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Displaying extreme mood swings

Risk Factors — Situations that could increase the likelihood of suicidal thoughts.

  • Previous suicide attempt
  • Loss of health
  • Relationship issues
  • Death or illness of a loved one
  • Decrease in grades or performances
  • Family history of depression
  • Someone close to you has died by suicide

Talk about it — Asking the suicide question does not increase the risk.

  • Ask directly – “Are you thinking about killing yourself?”
  • How you ask the question is less important than that you ask it.
  • Talk to the person alone in a private setting.
  • How not to ask the question – “You’re not suicidal are you?”

Suicide is not the problem, only the solution to a perceived insolvable problem.

  • Listen to the problem and give them your full attention.
  • Offer help in any form.
  • Then ask, “Will you go with me to get help?” or “Will you let me help you?” and “Will you promise not to kill yourself until we’ve found some help?”

Resources:

Get Help

Any willingness to accept help, even if in the future, is a good outcome. The best referral involves taking the person directly to someone who can help. The next best referral is getting a commitment from them to accept help, and then making the arrangements to get that help.

A number of external resources are available to support students and their families in crisis. To name a few:

Additional resources such as information on youth suicide warning signs, parent talking points and additional outside support can be found at youthsuicidewarningsigns.org.

  • All students and staff in our schools deserve to be treated with dignity and respect regardless of gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, country of origin, disability, or religion.
  • Our classrooms and schools should be a safe and welcoming place for everyone.
  • We respect that families and students might have differing points of view on a variety of topics. No matter what, we expect students and staff to treat each other with dignity.
  • We honor our students’ gender identities, which includes respecting their pronouns, name use, and gender expression.

KPS believes that every student has the right to a safe, supportive and LGBTQ+ inclusive environment. We work to create safe schools that support LGTBQ+ and gender expansive youth. KPS recognizes gender identity, sexual orientation, and sex-assigned at birth as complex, contextual, highly individual, and rooted in lived experiences.

The commitment to this work reflects the district’s commitment to care, collaborate, empower and engage with students, families and the Kenesaw community. Our work is anchored in KPS Board policies, which are rooted in State and Federal law.

District Policies and Guidelines

District policies are rooted in state and federal law as well as input from LGBTQ+ students

  • District Policy 5401: Anti-discrimination, Anti-harrassment, Anti-retaliation
  • District Policy 5415 Bullying/Harassment

Below are some external resources you can to refer to when talking with your children:

Talking about race can be difficult to navigate with adults and children alike. We believe that family conversations are the catalyst to better understanding, but also understand that conversations can be tricky and change depending on factors such as family dynamics, socioeconomic class, community connections and personal experiences. There are no quick fixes to the complexities of race conversations, but here are several resources that may aid families in conversations with children.

How to talk with your kids about racism, from ParentToolkit.com:

  • Actually talk about it
  • Set the example
  • Navigate their curiosity
  • Make it relatable
  • Address mistakes
  • Be an advocate

Read the full article on ParentToolkit.com: English

For a full article with conversation topics by level (Toddlers, Pre-K, Elementary, Pre-Teens/Teens), read this article from Aha!Parenting and Dr. Laura Markham and Colorado Children’s Hospital’s “How to Talk About Racism and National Protests with Your Children

Further Resources

High profile acts of violence, particularly in schools, can confuse and frighten children who may feel in danger or worry that their friends or loved-ones are at risk. They will look to adults for information and guidance on how to react. Parents and school personnel can help children feel safe by establishing a sense of normalcy and security and talking with them about their fears.

Resources and Talking Points for Parents and Teachers outlined below or can be viewed in a printable/condensed version in English

Reassure children that they are safe. Emphasize that schools are very safe. Validate their feelings. Let children talk about their feelings, help put them into perspective, and assist them in expressing these feelings appropriately.

  1. Make time to talk. Let their questions be your guide as to how much information to provide. Be patient; children and youth do not always talk about their feelings readily. Watch for clues that they may want to talk, such as hovering around while you do the dishes or yard work. Some children prefer writing, playing music, or doing an art project as an outlet. Young children may need concrete activities (such as drawing, looking at picture books, or imaginative play) to help them identify and express their feelings.
  2. Keep your explanations developmentally appropriate.
    Early elementary school children need brief, simple information that should be balanced with reassurances that their school and homes are safe and that adults are there to protect them. Give simple examples of school safety like reminding children about exterior doors being locked, child monitoring efforts on the playground, and emergency drills practiced during the school day.
    Upper elementary and early middle school children will be more vocal in asking questions about whether they truly are safe and what is being done at their school. They may need assistance separating reality from fantasy. Discuss efforts of school and community leaders to provide safe schools.
    Upper middle school and high school students will have strong and varying opinions about the causes of violence in schools and society. They will share concrete suggestions about how to make school safer and how to prevent tragedies in society. Emphasize the role that students have in maintaining safe schools by following school safety guidelines (e.g. not providing building access to strangers, reporting strangers on campus, reporting threats to the school safety made by students or community members, etc.), communicating any personal safety concerns to school administrators, and accessing support for emotional needs.
  3. Review safety procedures. This should include procedures and safeguards at school and at home. Help children identify at least one adult at school and in the community to whom they go if they feel threatened or at risk.
  4. Observe children’s emotional state. Some children may not express their concerns verbally. Changes in behavior, appetite, and sleep patterns can also indicate a child’s level of anxiety or discomfort. In most children, these symptoms will ease with reassurance and time. However, some children may be at risk for more intense reactions. Children who have had a past traumatic experience or personal loss, suffer from depression or other mental illness, or with special needs may be at greater risk for severe reactions than others. Seek the help of mental health professional if you are at all concerned.
  5. Limit television viewing of these events. Limit television viewing and be aware if the television is on in common areas. Developmentally inappropriate information can cause anxiety or confusion, particularly in young children. Adults also need to be mindful of the content of conversations that they have with each other in front of children, even teenagers, and limit their exposure to vengeful, hateful, and angry comments that might be misunderstood.
  6. Maintain a normal routine. Keeping to a regular schedule can be reassuring and promote physical health. Ensure that children get plenty of sleep, regular meals, and exercise. Encourage them to keep up with their schoolwork and extracurricular activities but don’t push them if they seem overwhelmed.

Suggested Points to Emphasize When Talking to Children

  • Schools are safe places. School staff works with parents and public safety providers (local police and fire departments, emergency responders, hospitals, etc.) to keep you safe.
  • The school building is safe because … (cite specific school procedures).
  • We all play a role in the school safety. Be observant and let an adult know if you see or hear something that makes you feel uncomfortable, nervous or frightened.
  • There is a difference between reporting, tattling or gossiping. You can provide important information that may prevent harm either directly or anonymously by telling a trusted adult what you know or hear.
  • Although there is no absolute guarantee that something bad will never happen, it is important to understand the difference between the possibility of something happening and probability that it will affect you (our school community).
  • Senseless violence is hard for everyone to understand. Doing things that you enjoy, sticking to your normal routine, and being with friends and family help make us feel better and keep us from worrying about the event.
  • Sometimes people do bad things that hurt others. They may be unable to handle their anger, under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or suffering from mental illness. Adults (parents, teachers, police officers, doctors, faith leaders) work very hard to get those people help and keep them from hurting others. It is important for all of us to know how to get help if we feel really upset or angry and to stay away from drugs and alcohol.
  • Stay away from guns and other weapons. Tell an adult if you know someone has a gun. Access to guns is one of the leading risk factors for deadly violence.
  • Violence is never a solution to personal problems. Students can be part of the positive solution by participating in anti-violence programs at school, learning conflict mediation skills, and seeking help from an adult if they or a peer is struggling with anger, depression, or other emotions they cannot control.

The above content comes from the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP). Additional information for parents and educators on school safety, violence prevention, children’s trauma reactions, and crisis response can be found at https://www.nasponline.org.

Additional Resources

Coping with Current Events: How to Talk to Kids About Upsetting News – Tips from Children’s Hospital Colorado