Loudoun Co. schools offer free parent coaching on mental health discussions

Talking about mental health can be a daunting task, especially with your kid. School officials in Loudoun County, Virginia, are trying to make it easier by equipping parents with resources to help initiate conversations about wellness.

Loudoun County Public Schools is partnering with ParentGuidance.org, which is an organization that provides free coaching for parents on how to approach discussions with their kids surrounding mental health.

The organization helps parents to be better prepared for those conversations, said Jennifer Rojas, the senior impact manager at the Cook Center for Human Connection — which facilitated the partnership between the school system and ParentGuidance.org.

“If a child comes home with a scraped-up elbow because they fell off their bike, most parents know what to do.” Rojas said. “They know how to clean it, put a little Neosporin on it, kiss on the forehead — but when it comes to those mental health issues — parents often don’t know what to do, or how to react or what to say.”

The organization’s website, which features on-demand courses on topics like anxiety, bullying and suicide prevention, is available to anyone. But through the partnership, Loudoun County parents will also have access to free personal parenting coaches.

“Any family member, being a parent, grandparent, foster parent, whoever it is that’s the trusted adult in the life of that child is eligible for a parenting coach at no cost to them.” Rojas said.

Parents can text, call and email coaches or they can meet up face-to-face, she said.

The goal is to empower parents to have a positive impact on their child’s mental health, she said. The county is hoping to help out families that might be uninsured, or waiting to get in to see a therapist.

She said ParentGuidance.org provides courses and coaching for teachers as well.

“When you are always constantly giving and if your cup becomes empty and you have nothing to pour from — that’s teacher burnout.” Rojas said. “There’s a term called compassion fatigue when you’ve been giving, giving, giving and you yourself are running empty. So, we provide that professional development to talk about things like minding your health.”

Ten other school districts across Virginia are also participating in the coaching program.

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Grace Newton

Grace Newton is an Associate Producer at WTOP. She also works as an associate producer for NPR Newscast. Grace was born and raised in North Carolina but has lived in D.C. since 2018. Grace graduated from American University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and minor in art history in 2022.

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