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Virtual Preschool Blues? Untameable Tantrums? LAUSD Has A Helpline For Parents And Teachers

Young children often have difficulty expressing their feelings verbally. LAUSD has a new hotline to help parents figure out their kids' moods. (Charles Deluvio via Unsplash)
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Last April, the Los Angeles Unified School District launched a mental health hotline for students.

One district staff member described it as "psychological first aid."

But what about supporting kids who don’t yet have the words to share what they’re feeling, let alone talk about it on the phone?

There’s now a helpline. Every weekday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. parents, caregivers and teachers of young children can call 213-443-0165 and get help navigating virtual learning, tantrums, anxiety and whatever else is on their mind that day. (Parents, caregivers and teachers of older students can call 213-241-3840 for help during those same hours.)

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There’s no need to wait for a crisis to call.

“We're there to listen without judgment,” said district psychiatric social worker Marcela Bustamante. She’s a trained mental health professional with tips on everything from the developmental milestones kids should hit before they ever enter a classroom to how to help family’s process grief together.

“Behavior is a form of communication, especially for children between 0 to 5, because they don't have the words to say it,” Bustamante said.

A kid that’s antsy in virtual preschool might need to try learning from a different part of the home, fidgeting with an object while they tune in or just a break away from the screen.

“Maybe they're not just trying to ruin our day by having this tantrum,” Bustamante said. “They're just letting us know like, ‘Mom, I need your time... I need more hugs throughout the day. I need more praise throughout the day.’”

The social workers can also assist families who need help with special education services and connections to community resources.

“If we can really intervene early, and provide the parents and caregivers with the tools and skills, then they will be much more successful,” said LAUSD School Mental Health Director Joel Cisneros.

If you’re a parent or caregiver of a child 5 and under, we want to hear about your experiences. How has your child’s behavior changed during the pandemic? What have you learned and what are your parenting hacks?

Fill out the form below and KPCC/LAist early childhood reporter Mariana Dale and engagement producer Stefanie Ritoper will read every response. We will not share anything publicly without your permission.

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