Below are resources to support families with mental health and wellness including support for managing stress, anxiety, and routines.
We work hard to ensure our schools are safe, welcoming places for all students and families to learn and thrive. Parents and school personnel can help children feel safe by establishing a sense of normalcy and security and talking with them about their fears. No matter how old your kids are, threatening or upsetting news can affect them emotionally. What can you do as a parent to help your kids process information that can be unsettling? Here are some tips to help with family conversations at home.
Your kids will look to the way you handle the news to determine their own approach. If you stay calm and rational, they will, too.
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. Young children may need concrete activities (such as drawing, looking at picture books, or imaginative play) to help them identify and express their feelings.
Keep your explanations developmentally appropriate.
Early elementary school – provide simple information balanced by assurance of safety.
Upper elementary and early middle school – answer questions and assist in separating reality from fantasy.
Upper middle school and high school – students will have strong and varying opinions about the causes of violence in schools and society. Emphasize student role in safety and how to access support.
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.
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. Seek the help of mental health professional if you are at all concerned.
Maintain a normal routine.
Keeping to a regular schedule can be reassuring and promote physical and mental health. Encourage them to keep up with their schoolwork and extracurricular activities but don’t push them if they seem overwhelmed. Limit/be aware of media exposure.
Community Resource List During COVID-19: Opportunity Council is maintaining a list to provide updated information on resource availability in Whatcom County.
WFCN Crisis Numbers and Resources: Whatcom Family & Community Network’s resource list to support students and families with managing stress and needs during this time of COVID-19 closures. It includes helplines and lifelines, as well as links to mental health resources. (Spanish)
BPS Community Resources page has additional community agencies and resources, organized by topic.
Mental and emotional well-being from Washington State Coronavirus Response
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
Free, confidential support for people in distress and/or crisis (not limited to suicidal crisis)
Trevor Project Hotline (LGBTQ focus): 1-866-488-7386
National Parent Helpline: 1-855-427-2736
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Hotline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or text TalkWithUs to 66746.
People with deafness or hearing loss can use their preferred relay service to call 1-800-985-5990
Volunteers of America Care Crisis Response Services: 1-800-584-3578
Teen Link: 1-866-833-6546
Confidential and anonymous help line for teens
Bellingham Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services (DVSAS): 24 hour help line: 360-715-1563; email email@example.com
2-1-1 Washington: Connect to state and local health and human services: 211
Unity Care NW: 24-hour Crisis Line at 1-800-584-3578, or 911.
Lummi Behavioral Health 24/7 Crisis Phone 1-360-594-1317
Lummi Victims of Crime: 360-312-2015
Victim Support Services: advocacy services for victims of violent crimes
Melissa Isenhart, cell 425-309-2389 or call 24 hour line at 888-288-9221
Bellingham Police Department,
Call 911 for emergencies. For confidential support, call anonymously at 360-778-8611 or go online at cob.org/tips
Our TreeHouse - Our TreeHouse provides resources and support in Whatcom County to grieving children, teens, their families, and their communities.
Talking to children and teens about sexual assault - from RAINN, the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization
Resources from Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services of Whatcom County
If you or your child would like to talk to someone about how to manage stress, anxiety and routines during this time please use one of these avenues:
- Call or email your school counselor, you can find their contact information on your school webpage (middle and high schoolers look for “Counseling” in the upper right hand corner of your school website) or call the main school office and ask for a school counselor.
- Fill out the Bellingham Public Schools request form and select “I would like a school counselor to contact me”
- For immediate non-emergent support
- Washington Listens to talk about anything COVID or stress related at 1-833-681-0211. Hours are from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.
- 24 hour Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255
- Online crisis chat: www.imhurting.org
- Crisis Text Line by texting HELLO to 741741.
- If this is a medical/mental health emergency, please dial 911 for emergency assistance or
- Call the 24 hour Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255; online crisis chat: imhurting.org; or the Crisis Text Line by texting HELLO to 741741.
- Compass Mobile Crisis Outreach Team at 1-800-584-3578 to talk to a local mental health/crisis responder. You can also ask providers to come meet with you.
Brigid Collins Parent Support Classes
Brigid Collins Parenting Academy provides free parent coaching as well as free parenting classes.
The Parenting Academy provides evidence-based one-on-one parent coaching and group parenting classes to help parents gain research-proven skills and knowledge to raise resilient, happy children, manage behavioral problems and improve relationships. Sliding scale fee and scholarships are available. To learn more, register for a coaching session, or to schedule a free 30-minute consultation, call (360) 922-3600 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Virtual Parent Coaching During the COVID-19 Crisis
Take advantage of virtual parent coaching with the Parenting Academy as you navigate these uncertain and stressful times. Sliding scale fee and scholarships are available. To learn more, register for a coaching session, or to schedule a free 30-minute consultation, call (360) 922-3600 or email email@example.com. Scholarships and sliding fee scales are available for services. Please contact Brigid Collins for more information.
One of our partners in establishing caring school environments, has resources for parents specific to these times on our website in English and Spanish
Seattle Children’s Mental Health Referral Service for Children and Teens
Families can call 1-833-303-5437, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., to connect with a referral specialist. The Mental Health Referral Service will provide thorough mental health referrals for children and teens 17 and younger from across Washington.
On social media, follow these agencies for support and encouragement:
- Action for Healthy Kids (AFHK)
- Strengthening Families Whatcom: SFP Whatcom FB page for updated opportunities for parents!
Department of Children Youth and Family
Whatcom Dispute Resolution Center
Offering a virtual trainings on understanding conflict specifically for youth. This can include kids learning about conflict resolution or tune in as a parent.
Forefront Suicide Prevention
The Well-Being Series is a series of webinars for families and educators including; LEARN Saves Lives Suicide Prevention Training, Educator Wellness 4-Part Webinar Series, and Student Life Skills to Survive & Thrive During COVID-19 & Beyond.
Suicide Prevention Resource Center
The Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC) has compiled a selection of web pages and information sheets on mental health and coping with the effects of COVID-19. These resources are a selection from key organizations in the field.
Mental Health First-Aid
Tools and guidance from the Mental Health First-Aid curriculum to provide support to those around you during the COVID-19 pandemic. How to Help Someone with Anxiety or Depression During COVID-19.
Psychology Today Mental Health Provider Directory – Allows user to search by location, specialty, insurance, type of therapy, etc.
Catholic Community Services: 360-676-2164
Compass Health: 1-360-922-6670 or 1-844-822-7609
SeaMar Behavioral Health Child & Family Services: 360-398-5444
Parenting Academy, provided by Brigid Collins Family Support Center, offers virtual parent coaching as you navigate these uncertain times. Register to attend a one-on-one session or group seminar by calling (360) 922-3600 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. See seminar descriptions on webpage.
Unity Care Behavioral Health (360) 676-6177
Lummi Behavioral Health – 1-360-312-2019
Providing Telehealth Services
- Pay close attention to your own feelings of stress or anxiety. Practice continued self-care strategies, including eating healthy, getting enough sleep, exercising, and finding time to take breaks. If you find yourself overwhelmed by negative thoughts, find ways to reframe your thinking. See mental health support for yourself or loved ones.
- Acknowledge and support children in processing their full range of emotions and concerns, while offering calm and reassurance. Consider how children will react at different ages and identify appropriate ways to respond. Find ways for children to express their feelings through conversation, music, art, dance, writing, or other activities. Tune into how they’re feeling throughout the day and offer quiet time or breaks as needed.
- Provide age-appropriate information and accurate answers about the news while limiting excessive television or social media. Help children assess the facts from misinformation.
- Share with children what you are doing to keep them safe. Help children learn about and practice proactive strategies, such as frequent hand washing, to stay healthy and explain why social distancing is important. In addition to promoting healthy practices, this can help them feel a greater sense of control.
- Come up with fun alternatives to show signs of affection while minimizing the spread of germs. For example, elbow bumps or foot shakes.
- Whenever possible, provide consistency in daily routines including meals and bedtimes. While changes in schedules may seem inevitable, consistent routines can foster a sense of safety.
- Practice patience when routines are necessarily disrupted, which can lead to potential behavior issues or meltdowns. Try to comfort children while setting boundaries.
- Promote family time and healthy practices by using this time as an opportunity to create new schedules and routines, such as taking a morning walk together, having daily reading.
- Help children and adolescents think of creative ways to maintain their friendships and social connections. This may include writing emails or letters to friends and relatives, or scheduling time to use the phone or age-appropriate technology to communicate with others. Remember that your own social connections are important as well. Make time to reach out by phone or virtually to family and friends.
- Proactively reach out to school and community organizations to support you in meeting any additional needs your family may have, such as access to meals, or support service
- National Association of School Psychologists: Talking to Children About COVID-19 (Coronavirus)
- Child Mind Institute: Talking with Kids About Coronavirus
- PBS Parents: How to Talk to Kids About Coronavirus
- NPR: What to Say to Kids When the News Is Scary
- NPR: Just For Kids: A Comic Exploring the New Coronavirus
- Livescience: The Ultimate Kids’ Guide to the New Coronavirus
Book by Local Author and Child Psychologist, Sally Baird
Local retired child psychologist, Sally Baird Has written a children’s book about worry and anxiety. She recorded herself reading her book and has given us permission to share it with families and students. This is a wonderful resource for talking with your children about what to do with their worry.
Other books on helping children cope with worry:
- What to Do When You Worry Too Much: A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming Anxiety by Dawn Huebner
- How Big Are Your Worries Little Bear? By Jayneen Sanders
- The Invisible String by Patrice Karst
- For more books on stress/worry
Supporting Children’s Mental Health
For families looking for additional ideas to support their children’s mental health needs, the following tips and strategies are tools that may be helpful:
Take Care of Your Own Mental Health First
- First, take time to process your feelings, talk to others and get your adult support.
- Emotions can be contagious. Kids are sponges and they can feel our moods. If we are not OK, our kids are less likely to be OK.
- Kids are resilient and often they are taking their cues of how to respond and cope from you!
Regression is Normal
- It is expected that kids may be anxious and that may result in regression and acting out.
- Behaviors such as bedwetting, thumb sucking, baby talk, clinging, thumb sucking, wanting to sleep with parents, or playing with toys long forgotten may emerge.
- These behaviors are not cause for alarm. You haven’t failed as a parent!
- Regression simply a coping mechanism for adults or kids to deal with uncertainty and stress.
- Be patient when you observe regression. Instead of discipline, try helping children express their feelings in the moment.
Validate Children’s Feeling
- Carve out space for kids to express how they are feeling during this confusing time.
- Validate both their positive and negative feelings about staying home from school including worries, fears, disappointments and frustrations.
- Acknowledge that you understand how hard it is for them not seeing their friends or relatives or how disappointing it is that events like birthdays and holidays have had to be cancelled.
Share Coping Mechanisms
- Parents can share strategies for dealing with feelings of sadness, loss, anxiety & worry.
- Encouraging kids to draw pictures of what they are afraid of or have questions about.
- Other coping strategies include reading a book, exercising, listening to music, crying or talking.
Emphasize What Can Be Controlled
- With so much out of their control, children will benefit from talking about the ways they can help keep their family safe and healthy.
- Focus on concrete, practical things which are within their control, such as reminding them to wash their hands for 20 seconds and stay socially distanced.
- Offer reassurance that scientists, doctors, and other people are working to keep us safe.
- Make plans for the future, something to look forward to when it’s safe, like a trip or outing or a visit to the grandparents’ house. Keep it simple and keep dreaming together for brighter days.
Keep Established Routines (or create new ones)
- Consistency & structure are very calming for kids during times of uncertainty and stress
- Simple routines are helpful, but any routine, such as mealtimes, wake-up/bedtimes, cooking together, chores and even snuggle time on the couch every night, give added benefit to kids.
Encourage Virtual or Socially Distant Social Interaction
- Encourage virtual connections with other kids, friends or relatives as regularly as possible.
- Limited technology? Writing letters to neighbors or loved ones can encourage connections, too!
Physical Activity to the Rescue
- Younger children especially need vigorous outlets for physical health, wellness and relieving stress.
- Build in movement breaks for kids of all ages to get outside, enjoy the fresh air and get their hearts pumping (10-15 minutes at a time, several times a day.)
- Ideas include tag, jump rope, riding a bike, working out to an exercise video, or family walk/jog.
- Information can be empowering, so be sure to share age-appropriate facts with your children and encourage them to ask you any questions they may have.
- When kids asking questions, such as when school will start or when will they see their friends, be honest. Let them know that you do not have answers now but will let them know when you do.
- Limit news exposure as it’s often not age appropriate and may feed into anxiety.
Add in Extra Time To Be Present
- Try to set aside a few minutes every day for focused attention with your children. Even increments of 5 minutes of focused attention can ease stress and worry.
- Offer comfort and reassurance to children about their safety & increase physical contact during times of uncertainty.
And most importantly: Give Yourself A Break
- Don’t put too much stress on yourself to be that perfect parent during this time. It’s ok to err on the side of being just good enough.
- It’s OK to recognize that you may not be a teacher, activity director nor a chef, and maybe you can’t juggle all of these expectations right now (or EVER!)
Resources adapted by Alisson Bonner, School Counselor, Bellingham Public Schools, from the following sources:
Additional Parent Support & Child’s Mental Health Resources:
Big 4 for Wellness activities and ideas
These Big 4 for Wellness activities are self-care goals and suggestions for staff and families.
Big 4 = Mental/emotional wellness, social connection, physical activity, and reflection.
Keep your self-care front and center in your life.
Mental/Emotional: What gives you hope?
Identify at least 3 things that give you hope. Write them down and put them on your bathroom mirror, your desk, or somewhere you will see them and be reminded that there is reason to hope.
Physical: Pyramid Workout
Pick two bodyweight exercises. The number of repetitions for the exercises will increase for two rounds, then decrease again.
For example: push-ups and sit-ups.
Round 1: 5 push-ups, 5 sit-ups
Round 2: 10 push-ups, 10 sit-ups
Round 3: 15 push-ups, 15 sit-ups
Round 4: 10 push-ups, 10 sit-up
Round 5: 5 push-ups, 5 sit-ups
Social Connection: Celebrate with our Graduates!
Watch the virtual graduation ceremonies and perhaps create a card for graduates
Reflection: Time lapse
Where were you at the beginning of the school closure emotionally?
How has that changed over the past three months?
What have you lost or let go of?
Are there any unexpected benefits for you during this time?
Mental/Emotional: Mood apps
Take time to precisely define how you are feeling with a mood app like The Mood Meter from Emotionally Intelligent Schools.
To find others, go to happierhuman.com/best-mood-tracker-apps.
Physical: 7-minute Workout
A 7-minute workout is a series of at-home body weight exercises. Complete the following with 30 seconds on, followed by 10 seconds rest. There are also many online videos and apps that you can follow.
- Jumping Jacks
- Wall sit
- Abdominal crunches
- Step-up on chair
- Tricep dip on chair
- High Knees (in place)
- Push-up w/ rotation
- Side Plank
Social Connection: Throw a virtual film festival.
Pick a movie for you and your friends to watch together at home. Some streaming companies like Netflix allow you to throw viewing parties. The chat feature allows you to share your thoughts with friends and family during the movie.
Reflection: How can I change the way I think of myself?
Make a list of ways you can think more positively about yourself. We can be very hard on ourselves, especially during times of change and stress, like this pandemic. How can you be more kind to yourself?
Mental/Emotional: Audio Audit - What are you listening to? Does the news, music, conversation I am choosing to listen to boost your wellness? Can you make changes that might help? Are there songs or artists that you enjoy listening to?
Roll the dice workout. A dice workout is a fun way to mix up a series of exercises to keep your workout engaging. Each roll of the dice represents a different exercise or set of exercises. Here's an example:
1- 8-10 Pushups
2- 1 minute of jump rope
3- 10 squats
4- 10 crunches
5- 30 second plank
6- 10 lunges
Set a timer and go! Once you get three of any number, you're done with that exercise. You can add exercises and do a double set for a more advanced workout. Make sure you include some music to add to your workout!
Social Connection: Show us your BIG4! At this point I'm sure we're all finding some areas of the BIG4 we're getting good at. Send us some videos or post your BIG4 on your social media platform(s) with the
Reflection: Am I holding on to something I need to let go of?
Mental/Emotional: See the Big Picture
When you are feeling overwhelmed or frustrated by a situation try to take a moment. Visualize the problem from a birds-eye view- starting right over you. Then zoom out to the neighborhood. Then zoom out to the town. Continue adjusting your mental zoom until the problem is small. There are always challenges we need to face, but this technique can help us keep things in perspective.
Physical: Explore your closest interurban trail segment.
Check out ParkScriptions for options near you. https://www.recreationnorthwest.org/parkscriptions/
Social Connection: Have I made someone smile today?
Reflection: Positive Self-Talk.
The way we talk to ourselves matters! Write an encouraging note to yourself.
Use moments from this week to remind yourself of your character strengths.
Mental/Emotional: Schedule work breaks with a Pomodoro Timer.
Look up a Pomodoro or "Tomato" timer online and use it while you are working. With regular breaks you may find more productivity and a greater sense of mental peace. Our focus, reasoning ability, decision making all improve with regular breaks.
Physical: The Daily Mile
Getting outside and running, jogging or walking for just fifteen minutes a day can be so beneficial for our brains and bodies.
The Daily Mile is a great way to join with others and track your progress. Being active at the start of our days can help with attention, focus, positivity, and makes our bodies stronger! Go to https://www.thedailymile.us/ for more.
Social Connection: Make a list of the people in your life who genuinely support you, and whom you can genuinely trust. Then, make time to hang out with them, in a healthy, socially distanced way of course! Try Zoom or FaceTime if you're far away.
Reflection: Name a compassionate way you’ve supported a friend recently. Then, write down how you can do the same for yourself.
Mental/emotional wellness activity
Breathing: the 4-7-8 Breathing Technique
The 4-7-8 Breathing Technique, also known as “relaxing breath,” involves breathing in for 4 seconds, holding the breath for 7 seconds, and exhaling for 8 seconds.
Breath is an important part of calming the brain and body in response to stress, anxiety and fear. Different breathing techniques can help to reset the brain's response to stress, lowering stress hormones like cortisol. This type of breathing can also be relaxing and help ease you into sleep.
Stay active with the Whatcom Family YMCA.
Our local Y has many online activities. Stay active with activities you can do anytime, anywhere.
Check out this activity called 12 Bursts!
Virtual Trivia or Game Night
Gather your friends on a video conferencing app like Zoom, Google Hangouts or Houseparty and arrange a game night. Trivia, Charades or card games can be played together virtually with a little planning.
Or check out these online versions of some of our favorite games:
Sleep can be challenging for many right now. Try reflecting on the following to help guide your mind into a more restful night's sleep.
- Pause to express gratitude. Taking a moment to reflect on what you are grateful for can have powerful lasting effects, especially before bedtime.
- Recall your moments or even micro-moments of connection: Spending time thinking of our connections throughout the day can have some positive benefits, even if those moments were short lived, helping to put a stop to negative bedtime thoughts.
- Acknowledge the bad things: It is important to not let those things that are negative control our thoughts. Still, bad things can sometimes happen. Moving your attention to the good things and away from the bad helps counter the natural tendency to ruminate and worry. If we don't take the time to recognize the bad, we can risk going into denial and not being able to let them go.
- Visualize a snapshot of a time in the future, and imagine how positive that time could be.
Mental/emotional wellness activity
What is your superpower?
We all know superheroes have amazing abilities, but so do each of us! What are some things you are really good at? Maybe you have even learned new things you are good at while staying home these past weeks.
Share your superpower(s) with a friend, family member, neighbor or teacher. This way, when we need help, we will know the superhero who can help us.
The benefits of yoga are numerous. Regular practice increases flexibility and strength, as well as improving digestion, lowering blood pressure, and improving mental well-being.
Many quality online classes are free during this time. Try yoga for the first time, explore a new type of yoga, or continue your practice with intention.
"Yoga is not for the flexible. It is for the willing." -Anonymous
Exchange a recipe.
Share a favorite recipe with a friend. And then connect with your friend to review the recipe, either by video, written letter, or over the phone.
Make a mantra.
What words help you move forward and give you hope?
Develop a positive mantra — a short saying that you repeat to yourself. It may be something like: "I am calm" or "I am strong."
Mental/emotional wellness activity
Check out the Smiling Mind website for free guided mindfulness activities and resources for adults and kids. This is also available as a free app for your phone.
“Mindfulness is paying attention to the present moment with openness, curiosity and without judgment.”
— Smiling Mind
Zumba is exercise that incorporates different kinds of dance and aerobics to create a fun workout to a variety of music like hip-hop, pop, samba and meringue. This is an uplifting way to get your body moving! You can find different Zumba workouts on YouTube and the internet.
Try this basic instruction: Guide to Basic Zumba® Fitness Steps
Post something positive
Use words/photos to create a positive post to encourage and support friends and family.
Share it on the social media platform of your choice.
Draw your biggest emotion right now.
How did you choose to represent this emotion?
What were the elements you included in your drawing and why?
What colors did you use, if any?
How do you think this emotion will affect you in an hour, tomorrow or next week?
Mental/emotional wellness activity
Reframe any negative thinking.
Take some time to transform the negative thoughts and feelings you might have and turn them into positive statements.
As an example of this, take the pesky, persistent thought "the house is a mess" and turn that into a more grateful thought such as "we have a roof over our heads."
Writing or saying your positive statement out loud is like tricking the brain to reduce stress.
Try this with your own thoughts.
Write a letter to a friend or relative.
Maybe this note or letter is to someone you haven't heard from in a long while.
Surprise them with something in their mailbox!
Barre is a type of strength-based exercise that utilizes movements from ballet and the ballet barre to strengthen and tone the body.Barre workouts increase core strength and balance.No equipment necessary!
Concentrate on your own achievements.
What are five things that you are proud of today?
Try writing in a journal with these in mind or just spend time sitting and reflecting on some of your own personal achievements, big or small.
Mental/Emotional Wellness Activity (mindfulness)
A Mindful Minute: Try 60 seconds of quiet in the present moment. Don’t think of anything that has already happened or anything that will happen in the future. If your mind starts to wander, focus on your breathing.
Challenge yourself to take one minute of mindfulness every hour.
For more ideas: 1-minute Mindfulness Exercises
Guided Mindfulness: The following are free resources to check out with narrated mindfulness. Created to help you pause and ground yourself as you listen. These two sources can be used online for free or downloaded as an app onto a mobile device. You get to choose the length: from 3-20 minutes.
Photo Share: Look through your photos. Find a picture that reminds you of a good memory of you and a friend of friends. Send the picture to your friend, share your memory of that day and ask them what they remember. Share at least four photos this week.
Try something new with a video instructor. If you like it, find more videos on their Youtube channels or social media posts.
Tabata Workout: Tabata workouts consist of 20 seconds of high intensity activity, followed by 10 seconds of rest.
At-Home Training and Diet: suggestions on how to create an at-home workout to build and maintain muscle.
- How did you feel before, during and after your mindful minute?
- Was it difficult to be in the present moment?
- Do you feel a Mindful Minute is something you could do regularly?
- Why or why not?
Consider the "Circle of Self-Care” graphic below.
- What are you currently using for self-care?
- Is your plan working?
- Are you open to trying some other methods of self-care?