Connecting with Students through Caring Messages
Updated: Aug 30, 2021
by Rachel Thapa
As Lincoln Park Middle School prepared for the COVID-19 related school building closures last spring, we surveyed our students and learned that their biggest concerns involved food insecurity and loss of connection. We focused our response on these areas by organizing a food drive and inviting
community members to share a caring message with a student. Through the support of our families, staff, and community, we were able to share 2000 pounds/200 bags of food with our families. We also collected dozens of caring messages electronically and wrote these messages out in hand-written cards to send with students.
One student stopped by my office before the building closures. She was struggling emotionally and was having a hard time with the uncertainty, fear of being disconnected, and not being able to get hugs from people due to the physical distancing. I was able to give her a message from a community member and say, “This is a message from a caring adult in our community for you. Even though we aren't able to give hugs right now, I want you to know that there are people who are thinking of you and you are not alone. There are many adults in the community who care about you and all of our students.” She cried, thanked me, and put it in her pocket, saying “I’m gonna keep this with me to remember that people care.”
In total, over 1000 messages were sent out to our students this spring/summer via food bags, distance learning paper packets, etc. As we began the school-year in a distance learning model, we have continued to prioritize connection and care for our students. This fall, we sent care packages home to each of our 720 students, including a caring message in each one. I've received many expressions of appreciation for these messages from students and parents/guardians.
Why Caring Messages?
Social connectedness and caring adults contribute positively toward kids’ well-being and can help them through stressful times. The current need for physical distancing and an extended period of distance learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic has required us to be creative with what this looks like. While our teachers and staff have been connecting with students and families in a variety of ways, caring messages have provided an opportunity to connect our community with our students.
There is compelling research behind the concept of caring messages which demonstrates the power it can have in helping people feel connected and cared for, even in the midst of extremely difficult circumstances. And, as it turns out, caring messages can be beneficial for both the recipient and the sender; research shows that caring messages can also reduce loneliness in the person sending the message.
So...what is a caring message? A caring message is a simple, non-judgmental, non-demanding expression of care. It communicates to the recipient that they are seen, accepted, not alone, and that someone has hope for them.
Spread hope and courage...send a caring message!
We continue to collect caring messages/encouraging notes to share with our students to let them know that adults in their school and community care about them. We invite you to share a message with a student. Click here to send a caring message to a student--we will make sure your message gets to an amazing kid! ❤
Some tips for caring messages:
❤️Non-judgmental, non-demanding expression of care...let the person know that they are loved and valued.
❤️Help them understand that there is someone there who cares and has hope for them...they are not alone.
❤️Express belief in them and in their strengths and abilities...we can do hard things!
For More Information/Additional Resources:
CBS News: How Caring Messages help in Suicide Prevention COVID-19: Industry Disruptor, Dr. Ursula Whiteside, Makes Life-Saving Mental Health Skills Accessible
Curbing Suicide With a Text Loneliness and Fighting Back Overcoming Loneliness: One Psychologist’s Approach
Resilience to ACEs Responding to ACEs with HOPE (Health Outcomes from Positive Experiences)