How To Do Mental Health Check-ins with Students

Concern for the mental health of elementary age students has been growing due to changes in our culture and the overall stress level in our society. Post-COVID, there has been a significant uptick in reported mental health concerns. The disruptions caused by the pandemic, including remote learning, social isolation, and uncertainty, have impacted the emotional well-being of students.

Conducting quick and effective mental health check-ins with elementary age students has become a necessary practice. Here’s how to seamlessly integrate these check-ins into your counseling routine, fostering a supportive environment for students.

Scheduling Mental Health Check-Ins:

  1. Establish a Routine: Schedule regular mental health check-ins to make them a familiar and expected part of the student’s experience. This routine helps create a safe space for open communication about emotions. Creating a routine especially helps students who may not take the initiative to let you know of concerns by providing a regular time to check in. It also normalizes counselor visits/check-in by making them routine for everyone, not just someone in crisis.
  2. Flexible Scheduling: Recognize that flexibility is key. Whether it’s a standing appointment or a spontaneous check-in, be prepared to adjust based on the needs of the student. This flexibility sends a message that their well-being is a priority.
  3. Use Creative Platforms: Utilize various methods for check-ins, such as face-to-face meetings, virtual sessions, or even informal chats during lunch or recess .One counselor that I spoke with would schedule a time with the teacher to pull every student in the class individually for a 5 minute check-in within a given time frame. Obviously, if concerns were identified an appointment was then scheduled for a lengthy session to address the concern.  The goal is to create an environment where students feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and where all students have the opportunity to be known and heard.

Establishing Rapport:

  1. Build Trust: Create a safe place to talk. Building trust is crucial; make sure students feel secure and respected, creating an atmosphere conducive to open conversation.
  2. Incorporate Playfulness: For younger students, incorporate elements of playfulness. Use games, art, or interactive activities to make the check-in process enjoyable and less intimidating. This might be as simple as drawing or selecting an image of a face that shows how they are feeling or providing puppets that young children can use to express their thoughts and feelings.
  3. Active Listening: Practice active listening by maintaining eye contact, nodding, and responding with empathy. Show genuine interest in what the student shares, validating their emotions and experiences.

Questions to Ask During Mental Health Check-Ins:

  1. How are you feeling today?
  2. Is there anything on your mind lately that you’d like to talk about?
  3. Are there any challenges you’re facing right now? T
  4. What makes you feel happy/sad/angry/frustrated/worried or scared?
  5. When you feel sad/angry/frustrated/worried/scared, what do you do to make yourself feel better?
  6. If you had a magic wand and could make the perfect life, what would it look like?

Integrating regular mental health check-ins into our counseling practices is a proactive step toward nurturing the well-being of elementary age students. By establishing rapport and using thoughtful questions, we create an environment where students feel supported, valued, and heard. In addition, we are able to identify problems that might go unnoticed and provide effective strategies for supporting students through these challenging times.


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