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Supporting Families Begins with Our Own
A person’s a person no matter how small.
Today’s ExchangeEveryDay was written by Sara Gilliam, Editor-in-Chief of Exchange magazine. It outlines ways she is supporting her own children through the coronavirus situation, and it offers words of wisdom you are welcome to share with families you might be supporting at this time (including your own)! Sara writes:
I wanted, this morning, to reach out to the parents and grandparents and guardians among us; we are early childhood professionals, but we are also individuals struggling to manage our own in-house messaging and response to global news. I’d like to share some practical ideas that are helping me support my own children, ages six and ten, as I work from home.
- Developmentally appropriate practice and language play a key role now, as always. Our children have different capacities to understand COVID-19, and it’s important that we meet them on their level with information that is understandable, helpful, and not too overwhelming or frightening. For toddlers and preschoolers, this means focusing on washing hands, healthy eating and leaning in to the idea of an extended family “staycation.” For early elementary children, we can discuss how diseases spread and the importance of hygiene and social distancing. We can emphasize the importance of isolating from peers in order to protect all members of our community. We can empathize with loneliness and share how we, personally, are coping. We can seek out and retell stories we read about everyday heroes—medical professionals, grocery store clerks, truck drivers, and so on.
- With children of all ages, we can model working through distressing situations with positive attitudes and flexibility. It’s inevitable that we are going to have moments of anxiety or sadness in the coming days and weeks. We do not need to shelter our children from our true feelings, but we do need to show how we unpack these feelings and care for ourselves. Harness your “I Feel” statements and encourage children to create their own. (I feel sad that I can’t see my friends. I feel scared that Nana and Papa might get sick. When I’m stuck inside the house on rainy days, I feel like we’re going to be quarantined forever. Listen with love and respond with empathy. This comes naturally in our work with children; sometimes it can be harder to slow down and nurture ourselves and our own families.)
- Now is the time for storytelling. History is filled with fantastic stories of ordinary people, including children, stepping up as heroes and world changes. Yesterday, I told my sons about Anne Frank and the years she lived in a tiny attic with her family, and the subsequent importance of her diary as an artifact documenting a terrible time in history. Kid detectives, climate change activists, animal rescuers and bully-defeaters can be found in children’s books, chapter books, and on podcasts and online documentaries. My sons love hearing about acts of bravery on the Titanic or during wars, famines, or the Spanish flu. There is great comfort in knowing that humans have faced challenges for generations; our story is just now being written.
- My clinical psychologist mother, years ago, gave me an amazing gift: the phrase reasonable expectations. The more reasonable we can keep our expectations of life during social distancing, the better. If you’re part of a family of four stuck inside an apartment for the foreseeable future, you’re likely to experience some conflict. You’ll probably ease your screen time restrictions. You’ll have mornings when you struggle just to get out of bed, let alone log in to work remotely while keeping on top of laundry and curating online educational opportunities for your children. There will be moments of charming connection and moments of abject misery. Keep your expectations reasonable—for yourself, the other adult(s) in your home, and most of all of your children. They are confused too. Just like you, they miss their friends, their teachers, their routines. Now more than ever, we are all in this together. And that togetherness and sense of camaraderie begin at home.
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