A Letter to Parents about Well-Being

Dear parents,

We know that the past three or four weeks have been a difficult time for everyone in the Dulwich International High School Suzhou community – students, staff, and parents. Some families may be dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak quite well, but others are probably feeling anxious, scared, upset, or confused by daily news – these reactions are very normal and to be expected. It has also been a challenge to rapidly adapt to a new online learning environment and ensure that your children continue to make progress. We have always believed deeply in the importance of Wellbeing at Dulwich International High School Suzhou; the current and ongoing COVID-19 outbreak has only made this clearer.

We are taking a multifaceted approach to supporting student Wellbeing at the moment. First and most importantly, students are aware that their Heads of Year are ready and willing to help with any struggles they are having - either with adapting to the online learning environment or with more general stress and anxiety. I would also remind parents that our Social-Emotional Counsellor, Ms. Hou, is fully available for more specialized support and is happy to arrange a confidential online meeting with any students who request it. We do encourage students to confidently reach out and ask for help from these staff if they need it; however, we are also closely monitoring student participation during the online learning period and are always actively looking for signs of students in need of support.

Online Lifeskills lessons for the past two weeks have focused on the virus situation, offering advice on how to manage feelings, and how to stay mentally and physically well. Key pieces of advice that students reflected and reported back on include:

  • Talking about how you’re feeling

  • Spending time with family and friends

  • Making time to chill

  • Focusing on what you can control

  • Keeping a regular routine

It has been honestly inspiring to see so many students sharing thoughtful and mature ideas with each other about how to deal with life when stuck inside, and it is clear from their writing that they value the love and support of you, their parents, more than ever these days.

Lifeskills work has also examined the role and effects of social media (WeChat, QQ, etc.) during the COVID-19 situation. I would like to share an excerpt from reachout.com which I think will be equally beneficial for you, the parents:

How can I cope with bad world news?  

1.   Learn to switch off  

It’s easier said than done, of course, but taking a break from social media (WeChat, QQ, Instagram) can do a lot to help tackle the effects of bad world news. Nearly 80% of social media users will see shared news articles on their feeds, and with the media’s emphasis on negative news, it’s very easy to be overwhelmed by your time on social media. Take breaks from time to time, especially if you notice yourself feeling down because of the things you’re seeing on social media. Replace the time you’d normally spend online with something offline, such as reading books, talking to your friends or playing games. 

2.   Try to understand why it’s upsetting you  

Sometimes world news can hit close to home and feel very personal. If what you’re feeling is more than just a sense of empathy for those affected by a tragedy, it’s worth speaking about it to someone you trust. Chat to your friends, family or even a counsellor about how the news is affecting you. The simple act of talking can sometimes make you feel a whole lot better.  

3.   Accept your level of control  

One of the biggest things about bad world news is that the scale of a tragedy and the distance we observe it from can make us feel helpless. When something bad happens, our immediate response may be to ask ourselves what we can do to help, and how we can put an end to it. While there are usually things, big and small, that a person can do to help a situation, we can’t stop it entirely on our own. Learning to understand how much influence we can have over something is a very important step in reducing the stress we might feel on hearing bad news. We’re not saying that you shouldn’t try to help. In fact, helping out can often make us feel better while doing something positive. But we need to understand what the most helpful way to contribute to a cause is, and learn to accept the limits.

There are many other Wellbeing initiatives happening throughout our online learning platforms at the moment, including fun daily challenges in PE, guidance on time management and organisation, mindfulness activities shared by Ms. Hou, and a personal mentoring programme for a small group of students in need of daily contact and support. We expect these to continue and expand as we remain away from our physical school.

I am looking forward to life at Dulwich International High School Suzhou returning to normal as soon as possible, but in the meantime, please join us in helping your children to keep happy and healthy at home. If you have further questions in the area of wellbeing, I am happy to answer them should you get in contact.

Assistant Director – Student Life

Peter Garnhum