Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph. D.:
Welcome advocates to another episode of the Leading Equity podcast, a podcast that focuses on supporting educators with the tools and resources necessary to ensure equity at their school. Today I got a special guest, a friend of mine, a colleague that works locally here in Idaho and I want to welcome Dr. Christian Chan with us today. Without further ado, Christian thank you so much for joining us.

Christian Chan:
I am truly excited for to be a part of this and certainly excited to have this conversation with you today. It's an honor.

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph. D.:
The pleasure is always mine and I look forward to our conversation today. Now I have, with coronavirus going around and a lot of our schools are shutting down and moving to online spaces and doing things that way, I wanted to bring you on because you're, and I'll give you an opportunity to share a little bit more about yourself, but you do have a school counseling background and so I want to chat about some things that we can do from a mental health perspective for our students that are going through the coronavirus pandemic that's happening right now. Could you share with the listeners a little bit about yourself and your professional experience, maybe even your research focuses?

Christian Chan:
Sure, sure. A lot of my experience has stemmed from a history of working in case management in the foster care system with adolescents. And working also primarily with children and families and adolescents and families. And so I've centered a lot of my practice around that in terms of my development as a counselor. And currently right now, of course I teach in our counseling program in the Department of Counseling at Idaho State University as an assistant professor. And officially I'm in marriage couple and family counseling faculty, but I do teach a large number of the core courses, which means that I actually teach student affairs counseling students, school counseling students, marriage couple and family counseling students and clinical mental health counseling students. A pretty, pretty wide range. But in many ways it's good because I think in so many capacities I'm able to advocate for students in their respective work settings and really help them understand why some of this work is important and applicable.

Christian Chan:
And in many ways having a good perspective of what they need to advocate within their own work settings and also how they can continue to apply some of what I'm teaching specifically to their work setting. I would say that some of the professional background, and of course my areas of interest tend to cover intersectionality, multiculturalism in counseling practice, supervision and counselor education, social justice and activism, critical research methodologies, career development and couple, family and group modalities, especially as it pertains to communication and socialization of cultural factors. In many ways you can probably deem me as someone who is very committed to, when we really talk about living social justice, equity, inclusion, diversity, a number of those topics.

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph. D.:
Well you sound like the right person to have this conversation, Christian. With your background, your experience, your research, the courses that you teach as well as you're teaching future counselors in whatever setting that is for them. I'm excited because I've had a lot of emails since, a lot of emails during this time where there's these transitions that are happening. And a lot of the conversations are focused on the academic support. But I've also gotten a lot of questions in regards to, okay, what do we do for mental health services from a teletherapy setting? And I wanted to know what are some of your initial thoughts when it comes to our children and their mental health as the coronavirus pandemic is happening?

Christian Chan:
I think about some of the experiences in doing community engaged work with populations who have faced natural disasters and traumatic incidents. And I think it reminds me of some of those experiences that we're having now with COVID-19 and how children are responding to crisis and trauma. To me this is a traumatic incident and it certainly will affect children as we think, counselors were very much in the mindset of thinking through what does wellness mean? And what does wellness look like in a developmental perspective? We're looking at how does somebody develop over time in terms of optimal wellness? When I think about children and their mental health, it's certainly, this is a time when they may not even say how it's affecting them or they may not be able to characterize how it's affecting them, but it is affecting them.

Christian Chan:
And I think sometimes even acknowledging that this, some of the feelings that they might have. Whether they're scared or they're upset, even whether sometimes that they're sad. I think walking through some of those core feelings can really actually acknowledge and start a conversation that can broach some of this topic with them. Be`cause I think in many ways what happens is that we sort of wonder, oh, is this not something we can talk about? And I think in many ways it's helpful for families to start a conversation because it's also kind of just a moment where your entire life is uprooted in a way. It becomes very different in that perspective.

Christian Chan:
The other piece too is if somebody, especially as a marriage, couple and family counseling faculty, I'm always in the business of acknowledging the system's perspective. Children are responding to not only their individual experiences with COVID-19 but they're responding to an entire system changing. Two examples I want to highlight here are families, so parents, other family members, extended family members, anybody that they want to deem family, they could also be having a very difficult time responding to the pandemic. And in that vein it also creates ripple effects for what children experience in terms of their mental health.

Christian Chan:
And the second piece is I would identify just the changes in the system. That's what they're responding to. The system's perspective, meaning that they are responding to schools, churches, social engagement, friends, policies that they're not necessarily no longer either engaged in or in some ways it's changed dramatically from what sense of normalcy that they might have had. There are a number of different perspectives that we can throw into this capacity, but I think that's some of the ways that I could certainly identify that this is a time when it can certainly affect children and their mental health.

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph. D.:
I like how you are approaching your response from a family oriented, again, having the background where you and especially you mention that you do a lot of a couple counseling and you support families in that sense. And I'm a father and I have two kids, a nine year old and a seven year old and we've been, we're at home and so we're having these conversations about COVID-19 and we're trying to figure out how do we have these conversations without scaring our kids? Yet we still want them to be informed and know why they're going, they haven't been to school in a couple of weeks and why they're transitioning to online and what does that look like? And how long that's going to be.

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph. D.:
What are some of the things that you're telling families and maybe some tips that you would give to not just teachers but teachers who are educators, but those who have kids and like you said, young ones in the home. And maybe it varies by age, but I would love to kind of hear, what would you suggest as far as how do we have these conversations? Because I agree, we do need to have them, but how do we approach them?

Christian Chan:
The first piece is really understanding and naming some of what we're experiencing. I come back to yes, naming the core feelings and whatever way or language that they can identify, but naming what they're feeling, that might be helpful. And then of course naming what's actually worrying them. Are they worried they're not going to see their friends for some time? Are they worried about not being able to go to school for weeks? What are they worried about? Are they worried about their families? Sometimes that's what happens too. If I think about like parents, teachers, school counselors, anybody who is in the capacity of working with children, I think really shifting that conversation and being able to ask a little bit more and explore a little bit more about what they're actually worrying about. Because I think in many ways that they're responding to circumstances that really are life threatening.

Christian Chan:
I come back to that trauma informed practice that in many ways they are responding to that and sometimes in the ways that they respond. There could be internalizing behaviors where they're not necessarily responding in any way that might seem behaviorally present, but they're sort of internalizing it in their feelings and then, or they could be externalizing it. Sometimes we could see kids, they become hyperactive or throwing things in the house and sometimes that's not, it's not necessarily irresponsive. I think sometimes some parents might say, "Oh that's, why are they misbehaving?" And it's like, well I think in this timeframe I think their entire sense of not just normalcy but their entire life feels threatened. And I think that also gets passed down, particularly within families. Because it's not to acknowledge that parents and other family members are not experiencing this too because they are.

Christian Chan:
But then I'm also thinking about at this point in time, especially because everything is so unpredictable and ambiguous, I think it might be helpful to really consider, I would say in terms of what families have really considered as a meaningful activity. Either a meaningful activity that they can do individually or a meaningful activity they can do together. And sometimes what I mean by that is I take this example of say if there was a family ritual. We used to go out for dinner every week, at least once a week and now you can't do that in the presence of COVID-19. Sometimes it might be recreating that family dinner experience of going out, but then having all the food get taken to your house. Doing a pickup order or a delivery order. And still, I know that now a lot of companies are moving in that direction and really offering some discounts for families to do a family order. But really figuring out how you can create some meaning making out of those experiences, particularly with COVID-19.

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph. D.:
What I'm hearing is you're suggesting that some of the traditions that we typically would do that require us to go out or interact, now that we're transitioning into social distancing, we could try to recreate some of those experiences in our home to, I don't know what the proper psychology term for it would be, but at least try to make our children feel safe or maybe recognize some of the things that they're used to in a different capacity. Is that kind of what I'm hearing?

Christian Chan:
Yes. Yes.

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph. D.:
And I like that idea. That's something I hadn't thought of because, and one of the things that I was thinking as you were sharing some thoughts was, our children respond the way that, based off of how we're reacting and how we're responding. I think from a adult's perspective it's important that we're trying to remain calm and we're not seeming a frantic or scared or just maybe putting on some sort of a persona in order to try to keep our students, our children calm. What are your thoughts on that?

Christian Chan:
Of course adding to a sense of calm and figuring out what that looks like within a family. I think there are a couple pieces here that I want to identify. Even recognizing that there are things that are going to be out of our control. In some ways having a conversation with kids and children to help them acclimate to the situation where you can even share even just knowing, practicing kindness and self-compassion. And what I mean by that is kindness and of self-compassion towards yourself too. I think about parents who are in very stressful situations right now as they're negotiating childcare and what that looks like and all the plans that they had initially laid out are no longer capable. Or it's not possible anymore. It's okay to acknowledge that those plans aren't going to look perfect.

Christian Chan:
And so I think in many ways also identifying and having an explicit conversation with kids that, I know that things aren't going to look perfect for you too as you try to work through this and I'm going to do the best I can and I know you're doing the best you can. Thinking through some of these ideas and plans of what they can do, but also recognizing too that there are some things that a family member or I won't be able to change. And there are things that are out of control or out of our control and that we're all still doing the best we can and it's okay and I get it.

Christian Chan:
We could identify a number of coping strategies. Some people do at home exercise, some people do journaling and even with kids, they might want to journal, they might want to do artwork, they might want to a family game time. It really, it could vary and it could vary based on what the family needs at that time based on also what's culturally sensitive to that family. Because there could be certain rituals or traditions that have to sort of morph in this time during COVID-19.

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph. D.:
I want to shift gears a little bit from the school counselor's perspective because I'm getting a lot of resources for teachers and I'm not seeing a lot of resources for school counselors. Maybe I'm missing it. Maybe there's a lot of resources out there and I'm just not, it just hasn't come across my purview. What are some strategies, maybe even resources that you would suggest to school counselors to continue to provide support for students from a virtual standpoint?

Christian Chan:
Interestingly enough, I think social media has been very powerful at this time. And I say that because social media used to be, people would get on there and just go on rants. But I think at this point in time, I think communities are really coming together because they know we are in an unprecedented time. And really a precarious time. This is one, a time where this has been challenging for everybody, the entire community. I know that the American School Counselor Association is coming out with a lot of different resources right now and even different professional development opportunities like webinars and everything to that effect, because some school counseling programs are actually moving online to a telehealth platform to continue their school counseling services. And I think that's also important because in this time, school counselors also thrive on a school community, family partnerships, and it's a little bit harder to enact some of those partnerships when we don't have that in person, face to face interaction. But certainly even been going through the American School Counselor Association, they've been able to draft up and create some resources.

Christian Chan:
I would say the other piece, for example on Twitter, if you look for the hashtag SCC chat, I'm going to give a shout out to Dr. Aaron Mason here, but the most recent SC chat really collected school counselors together to really help. This actually happened on Wednesday, the 25th. Dr. Aaron Mason really started entire school counseling chat to figure out, okay, how can we transition all these services effectively online? I think in many ways it's also really helping because now, because in that kind of live Twitter chat, it's pretty much, it's almost documented. It's easy to search it up and look through different responses that people have in response to some of the different questions or ideas that they might have in moving to school counseling online or building a list of resources or different tools or skillsets that people have been able to draw from in this time.

Christian Chan:
And so I've been thoroughly, not only impressed, but certainly grateful. Grateful that I'm able to see this. And I think it also helps too, for school counselors, I think in this time to not feel alone and because this can be a very isolating, in distance, in terms of social distancing, it can also be a very isolating experience. And so I think in many ways really helping school counselors, even through social media. This is when I think when social media can be really healthy. There's something like hashtag SC chat that they can actually find a community and say, "You know what? Wow, I'm really impressed at what this school counselor educator or this school counselor actually developed as a resource and I want to reach out to them if I could get permission to use it or to borrow it and use it in my program. And because I think in many ways it could be a really helpful resource."

Christian Chan:
And sometimes helping school counselors remember that they are not alone and that they do have the tools and they have the strength to be able to enact some of their services effectively and to work with children, students, families effectively.

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph. D.:
In your experience, or maybe even some of your colleagues or even the chat that you were participating on on Twitter, what are some of the things school counselors are doing for teletherapy services? Are they using Zoom? Are they using another platform? Are they scheduling? What does that structure look like for your colleagues that you've been interacting with?

Christian Chan:
A lot of people are moving to Zoom and mostly because some of the other technologies have been a little more challenging to use and so I think Zoom has been one. There are some other telehealth apps, but I think Zoom has been the most common. And the reason why I say that is because I think with telehealth, the struggle is some of the other telehealth platforms have been used in a way that certainly requires a lot more decision making power. And I think in many ways Zoom is much more accessible and even it can be affordable in terms of what people are using, especially if I know that school counselors are not always in the business of going through HIPAA compliance, but I think it's also best practice to really consider confidentiality and recognizing what might be helpful for the students and families that they work with and the kinds of services that they can provide.

Christian Chan:
The other piece too is really thinking about as school counselors are moving online and considering what they're doing. I think it's also important to look at what ASCA recommends with telecounseling and the liability around that. And also recognizing too that there's really using FERPA and HIPAA as sort of our models because I think that can be really helpful.

Christian Chan:
I think about how teachers can really, really integrate some of this, some of these activities into their own lesson plans. I know that for example, say if there's a teacher who is covering social studies or history, that they can in many ways even just start a conversation around what is it like to experience this in a very different way? Because I know some teachers have also transferred their entire classroom synchronously and asynchronously. And so even just giving teachers space.

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph. D.:
A lot of teachers already are ad hoc counselors in a sense.

Christian Chan:
Our group work, communities of learning, really helping their students to recreate that experience interacting with each other.

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph. D.:
I'm seeing a lot more of teachers providing some mental health help for their students. Especially in the first couple weeks of these transitions to online learning.

Christian Chan:
But also to help students know that they aren't alone. And to know that they're not isolated. And to know that their teachers can be there for them.

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph. D.:
Just give me maybe a couple tips that we can share with our teachers, are playing a bigger role now with the social emotional support with their students.

Christian Chan:
And so I think in many ways, still offering a lot of those experiences and really honoring that space for students too that this is a super different experience than what we all expected. And I think in that same vein for teachers, really understanding and helping their students to really engage in a grief process. Because I think we don't acknowledge that students are grieving right now at this time. They really are grieving, even if it's a loss of the transition to online learning that they're grieving. They're grieving that experience in the classroom and they're grieving their connection to a really awesome teacher. They're really grieving their connection to their students, their fellow peers, their colleagues. And I think in many ways they could be grieving that social connection and that community too.

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph. D.:
You're absolutely right. A lot of our students, my daughter, she's a social one and she is missing her friends. She mentioned to me, she's still asking for play dates and I'm like, well we could do, we can set up a virtual play date but we can't go over to her house right now. But she's been asking.

Christian Chan:
Absolutely, absolutely.

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph. D.:
Because she needs that. She's an extroverted person. She needs to be around people. And she's struggling in that sense.

Christian Chan:
If I'm thinking about future school counselors and any provider that really is helping to create a successful learning experience. And a successful experience that honors academic achievement and social emotional awareness and really honoring these different facets, that I think we part of it too, is really our responsibility as practitioners is really understand that we have to do the homework and see what resources might be available for our students and their families. Because this is a stressful time.

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph. D.:
And it's hard. My son, he's like me, he's an introvert and he's good doing his own thing. But my daughter and I'm sure there's other kids out there who are missing their teachers or classmates, PE, playtime, recess, all of those things that come with school. And they're missing that and they're asked to do all their work online and yes, I think that it's really good that a lot of our educators are putting in some sort of schedule or some sort of office hour time to where our students can connect.

Christian Chan:
And so for example what often I'm prepared to do is look for, okay, seriously, what do my students and what do their students need for survival? Because sometimes I think it's almost I can't even reengage with this learning process if I'm trying to figure out how I'm even going to survive in the time of COVID-19.

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph. D.:
But of course there's definitely families who are still trying to get access to internet and I believe a lot of internet service providers are providing a lot of support in that system, really help our families who are in need of devices and also the internet access. It's definitely a challenging time and like you said, there is a lot happening now.

Christian Chan:
The other piece too is as simple as something that might be, okay, where am I going to find groceries or food that could be affordable today? I know that sometimes for teachers and school counselors, they might feel like, wait, why do I need to do all this stuff? And it's like, I think at this point, we can't assume that all of our families have the resources to be able to thrive in this kind of environment. And I'm thinking even as something as simple as I'm looking up all the free, not just free resources or free activities, but also really thinking about, how am I looking up in terms of this transferring to technology piece, thank goodness, Zoom basically is allowing everybody to have free accounts. They've made their resources available.

Christian Chan:
But I think the other piece here too is even an internet connection. I know that several companies have pretty much moved to, they're offering free services for the next two months. And I think, and some have even upgraded the speed of their connection for everybody just because they know that this is not a time when people are able to afford some pretty costly resources.

Christian Chan:
It's one of those difficult times in trying to navigate all these different processes. It's not just the change to online learning.

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph. D.:
Yeah, and I'm glad you said that.

Christian Chan:
It's the change to online learning amidst all these other I would say circumstances.

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph. D.:
I was having a conversation with someone and one of the thoughts or suggestions out there was go ahead and buy a month's worth of food, 30 days, get ready, 21 days, get ready. And it was like, I can't afford 21 days worth of food. I'm week by week, and I just don't have the resources to provide, to stock up right now. I'm just not, maybe my job is already at stake because of shut down of business or the store or whatever. And it's like, I can't afford to purchase items up front. And the stress that's going to happen at home because as we don't know what's going to happen with this COVID-19, we're just glued to the TV and our social media accounts to try to get updates and it's just one of those realities.

Christian Chan:
I would say for all of us, I come back to this idea of kindness but compassion. Be kind to each other but at the same time also recognizing too that there are so many experiences that we are not seeing on the surface. And I do want to highlight the fact that I know that we haven't had extensive conversation and this could certainly be another podcast but the reality of multiple overlapping forms of oppression in this experience, so students aren't just grieving this entire process. Or this entire circumstance. Students are also going through a time where their safety is threatened and in a number of ways it's compounded in many ways. I think about students who have historically experienced racism and how that's going to be even more magnified this current time.

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph. D.:
Okay, I like that and I definitely appreciate your feedback there. We got to do some homework. Things are different now. We're transitioning and a lot of the things that we normally would have done, especially if we've been doing it for years, has to change. Christian, I'd definitely consider you as providing a voice in leading equity. What is one final word of advice that you could provide to our listeners?

Christian Chan:
The other piece is, also really thinking about experiencing classism and the reality is they may not have the resources and people think, oh, it's as simple as and easy as moving to an online format and recognizing that's not necessarily accessible. And because I think about some of the experiences that with students that I have, I have to acknowledge and work hard to make sure that when I think about a classroom that's accessible, it's like, is this really going to work for them? Because sometimes it may not. And giving several options to complete the work that may not look in these expectations that I deemed. And sometimes with those expectations, I think for teachers too, sometimes we have high expectations that we carried with us from that in person face to face format. But when you transfer that to an online format, there are a number of different factors that I can't predict that are happening for students.

Christian Chan:
Some again who are just barely trying to make it and trying to survive. And so that's the other piece that I wanted to highlight is for teachers, for the listeners, for school counselors, for anybody who's listening to this podcast, I really, my hope is that you're working hard to figure out a number of options that can make all the different services that you're providing more accessible. The other piece is really in the ability to broach that too. To have explicit discussions with students about what they're experiencing. Because I think we sort of sweep it under the rug sometimes. I think even in some ways, we're still very much in an ableist society, so it's not very much. Some of the ways that we've characterized, yes, technology can seem more accessible, but it may not be.

Christian Chan:
I think about, for example, a good example here is students who, they may not qualify for any sort of auditory disability. And in the same vein, it's almost like living with a disability, they may not even know what that means. And so they might have a harder time in the class and not really know why they're having a harder time. And then that somebody can embody some of those different forms of ableism, but they can also internalize that and say, "Maybe there's, maybe I'm just not getting it. Or maybe I'm not, I'm not really doing, maybe my work isn't up to par." And not knowing why. And so I think that's why it's important for listeners to really figure out how do I broach those factors and different experiences with my students?

Christian Chan:
I'm going to give my email and I'll give my personal email because I think it'll be easiest this way, but it would be [email protected] Email would be the best. And I will certainly make sure that I share that with you. And so that way you can share it with the audience too.

Christian Chan:
Oh my gosh, yes. Oh, I love how I mentioned it and I didn't even, I forgot my own Twitter. Yes. My Twitter account is, I'm @Christian, the letter X, Derek. Again, that's ChristianXDerek.

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph. D.:
Tough talks to have but we have to have thoughts transitioning to conversations and interaction, whatever that interaction looks like. Because I don't want to just say, one line. I recognize that that's not always possible. We definitely need to continue to have these conversations in whatever capacity that is. If we have some folks that want to reach out to you, Christian, what's the best way to connect with you?

Christian Chan:
Thank you so much. This has truly been an honor. Thank you.

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph. D.:
Sure, sure. Yeah, I understand and I'll link it up. Did you have, because you had mentioned Twitter, did you have a Twitter handle that you want to share as well?

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph. D.:
Okay. Well I'll have your email and I'll have your Twitter in the show notes as well so that we can have folks that have some additional questions can reach out to you. Christian, it has definitely been a pleasure having you on. Dr. Christian Chan, you are awesome and I appreciate your support and thanks for joining us.

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