Dear HA Families,
I hope this email finds you and your family healthy. With all the stress that both adults and children are feeling during these unprecedented times, I asked Emma Baber, our counselor, to share a few pointers:
- Talk to Your Kids and Answer their Questions - Children typically worry about what's unknown; having information helps them feel safe. Speak to your kids in age appropriate ways, and encourage them to talk about their thoughts and worries. Answer their questions honestly, but don't tell them more than they need to know.
- Stay Calm - Take care of yourself, and find ways to manage any anxiety you may be feeling so your kids don't pick it up on it. Listen to music, binge watch TV, exercise, meditate, or dance. Have your kids join you if they can, and encourage them to identify what helps them feel calm.
- Maintain Structure - Create and maintain a daily routine at home and stick to consistent bedtimes, mealtimes, and healthy meals. While it may seem like fun at first to spend all day in pajamas, over time this may increase kids' sense of chaos. Structure helps sustain a sense of normalcy and predictability.
- Focus on Safety and Good Habits - Remind children that they are safe and tell them what they can do to keep themselves, their families and members of their communities healthy (for example, washing hands with soap for 20 seconds and sneezing into their elbows). Emphasizing what they have control over helps empower kids when so much feels unknown and scary.
- Limit Access to News and Social Media - Constantly watching the news can increase anxiety. Monitor the amount of time children and teens are spending watching or reading the news, and their responses. If they become upset, turn it off and limit their exposure for a day or two.
- Stay Connected to Loved Ones - Use technology to keep in touch with people during social distancing. Some ideas: daily calls with grandparents, "dinner dates" with friends on FaceTime or older kids reading books to younger friends.
- Spend Quality Family Time Together - With all the unknowns, the connections between caregivers and children help everyone feel safe, secure and loved. Go for walks, play board games, try new recipes, have movie or arts and crafts nights, or any other creative ideas.
I am really thankful to Emma for putting this list together. For my wife Traci and I, #3 (maintain structure) has been huge. We give the kids lots of breaks, and they seem to want to stop for another meal every 10 seconds. However, we do start each day with a family meeting where we share the schedule, including some limited choices for them. I think we're still working on #1 (about answering our kids' questions). It seems to hit each of them at different times, but my second grader Evie will just get sad or REALLY angry in the middle of an otherwise good day. Emma also sent a couple of attachments (see below) that offer age-specific breakdown of what kids might be going through and other pointers about how to talk to them. Both are worth a read.
If you have any questions or concerns about navigating this, please reach out directly to Emma at firstname.lastname@example.org, any of your trusted partners on the HA team, or me. I am so appreciative of the teachers who are hard at work (even on their spring break) on the virtual school plans that I have previously described and we will start using on March 31. And, I am so appreciative of Marieme Diouf (our DEI Coordinator/ student and graduate advisor) and Emma for putting together the list of resources that you received yesterday.
Let's all continue to stay in touch with each other both generally and specifically to get any help that we need.
With best wishes this day for a measure of peace and joy in my home and yours,