LANSING, Mich. — During times of crisis, children need extra support to process their emotions. Beyond academic resources, one of the most challenging areas for many educators supporting students remotely is emotional and mental health. Beginning today, the newly launched Michigan Cares program offers educators and Michigan families — children, teachers, and parents alike — free digital lessons focused on developing social, emotional, and mental wellbeing skills, which have become especially important in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.
“We have faced an unprecedented crisis over the past month, and, in these uncertain times, having access to mental health resources is crucial,” said Governor Whitmer. “The Michigan Cares program will help students, parents, and educators across the state access the resources they need during this time. I’m proud to work with Michigan Virtual and every other organization that wants to step up to help Michiganders access help while we continue fighting COVID-19.”
There are many emotional implications from the stress caused by a global pandemic. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recognizes the stress caused by this crisis and recommends people prioritize their mental health during this time. To help residents with this, the State of Michigan provided funding for the launch of the Michigan Cares program, with its lessons designed to support children in grades K-12.
“As parents balance working from home, adjusting to a new routine, and caring for their children, the Michigan Cares program provides healthy, practical content for educators, parents, and children,” said Jamey Fitzpatrick, president and CEO of Michigan Virtual. “Having access to free digital resources on how to develop coping skills and manage emotions will allow Michigan communities to respond to the growing mental challenges so that we may emerge from this crisis stronger and healthier.”
For the past two years, Michigan Virtual has partnered with Evolution Labs to offer a subscription service to schools for social-emotional learning support. This robust web and mobile program provides a scaffolded solution to help students, educators, and parents navigate the mental health and social emotional needs of children. The program — aligned with recommendations from the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) — offers students access to age and developmentally appropriate content to help them understand how to care for their mental health, how to cope with intense feelings and anxiety, and how to seek help.
The lessons also help students continue to develop the human skills they’ll need both during this crisis– such as digital citizenship, cyberbullying and stress management — as well as skills they will need when the crisis is over — such as time management, emotional self-care, and getting along and working with others. Digital companion guides support educators and parents by providing talking points about each student topic.
“Social and emotional supports were very important before the pandemic. They are even more so now,” said Dr. Michael Rice, State Superintendent at the Michigan Department of Education. “As such, I am appreciative that Michigan Virtual is providing this new free resource for children, parents, and educators, as we all work to navigate these choppy waters.”
School districts are encouraged to take advantage of this free resource in their learning continuity plans. For more information, visit michiganvirtual.org/michigan-cares.