There is no doubt that we are living in and experiencing unprecedented challenges. You’ve probably heard the African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” This point is even more astute than ever before because of our pandemic crisis. Many, without children still at home, are worried about their own safety and the safety of grown family members, which is certainly justified. Who will be part of the village to raise the children during COVID-19? There is much support needed.
Let’s take each dimension of supports needed for children.
Thank you to Collier County Public Schools Food Service personnel who are delivering breakfast/lunches to children whose families qualify for free or reduced-cost meals to over 27 locations in Collier County, including Everglades and Immokalee. Their efforts to enable students to obtain the food sustenance they need during this difficult time is more necessary than ever. With parents being laid off, stay home orders, trying to stretch meager incomes farther for rent, food, prescriptions and gas, it’s a relief for families to receive nourishment for their children that they would have received by attending school in person. And thank you to the Food Pantries and other distribution centers for their tireless dedication to providing food to Seniors and families in need.
#2 Keep on Learning
There’s no substitute for having a caring and dedicated teacher nurture your children personally in a classroom, but “online learning” is making great strides in teaching remotely. By creating assignments that mesh with the Florida Standards, teachers encourage students to complete and submit them back to their teachers K-12 for grading and feedback. Starting on March 30th, teachers will provide “face to face” teaching from a virtual classroom to include all the students in their classes. Be sure to thank your teachers for all the extra time and effort put into the training to do this in such a short time.
For those parents/guardians that have children in a “Leader in Me” (Steven Covey) school, ask them about the seven habits and what they mean and reinforce them when you see a habit in action. To remind you, they are:
- Habit 1 – Be Proactive, You’re in Charge
- Habit 2 – Begin With the End in Mind, Have a Plan
- Habit 3 – Put First Things First, Then Play
- Habit 4 – Think Win-Win
- Habit 5 – Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood
- Habit 6 – Synergize (listening to others and compromise to incorporate different ideas)
- Habit 7 – Sharpen the Saw (have a Growth mindset)
#3 Physical Activity
Rather than sitting to watch TV or engage in computer games with all that time, our children need to play safely at a park, play board games, do puzzles, have fun creating with different art forms, fly kites, go to the beach, whoops, that’s out now. Design a fitness program/chart to keep until the end of the contagion cycle and beyond. There are lots of students doing yoga, riding bikes, helping out around their neighborhoods and creatively designing activities to keep themselves amused and active. If you have any board games, jigsaw puzzles, books about card games, share them with the young students in your neighborhood. Create original art and/or design signs of appreciation for the people who are out there trying to help and make life better—your police officers, first responders, medical professionals, teachers, etc. and put them on your cars to show everyone you care.
#4 Isolation and Disconnection
Students miss their teachers and their friends and may act out in frustration. This is a time to sit down and explain the situation, not with “the sky is falling” fear but with understanding. Heck, if we as adults are having trouble wrapping our heads around this, imagine how powerless a child feels. It’s also important to maintain the same rules and boundaries set in your household and neighborhood. Relatives and neighbors can help with reinforcement of those rules. With permission, your child could call several friends a day, write a letter to friends and family members across the country and let them know you love and miss them. Call a neighbor and see if he/she needs help with outside chores. The same is true of the adults reaching out to our children and their relatives with positive messages and support.
#5 Social-Emotional Challenges
I miss hugs, smiles and friendliness. I feel a magnification of the distance we are “supposed” to stay away from each other. The elbow bumps, faces hiding behind masks, lack of eye contact and spoken language, the fear in someone’s eyes when you engage them with a question. You can almost see the debate in their minds, “Is this a person who might contaminate me?”
As adults, we can refer to history and the myriad challenges overcome through the years, but our children are not as fortunate. We all need to pitch in while they are isolated at home, with no school counselors available, psychologists, social workers or loving teachers to calm their fears. Some parents can take on those roles, but the forced home containment is causing a 30% rise in reports of child and domestic abuse. We must be a village and support those who need support, reach out on the phone, with a note in the front door, or other gestures to support our children through what could be the biggest trauma in their lives. Proms for high school students and graduations for high school and college seniors have been cancelled along with all academic competitions, athletic practices and events. Talk about disappointing AND depressing.
Bottom line, we can be part of the village and the solution or be part of the problem by burying our heads in the sand and hoping someone else will step up to the plate. All schools are going through a deep clean in preparation for the return of staff and students someday. All those teams deserve our support and blessing as they work as a village to raise great, healthy children.
Imagine yourself as a child today. Should this experience be the biggest trauma of a child’s life? If we don’t reach out, who will?