Meeting Children’s Needs During Difficult Times

As the weather changes and kids return to school, 2020 has presented some unprecedented challenges for those that are trying to adopt a “new normal.”  Even in St. Charles County, school districts have not been unison in action.  Some districts have decided to return to school for 5 days a week, some have adopted a hybrid model of online learning and in person learning, and some have postponed the beginning of school another few weeks.  No matter what your area school has decided, many parents, caregivers, guardians, and educators are apprehensive about the projected year.  If the adults are intimidated and hesitant in anticipation of the school year, can you imagine how children and young adults are feeling?

Most full-time students in our area have experienced the longest spring break known to this generation.  Returning to studies and keeping their attention will be a struggle.  There have been some opposing thoughts and beliefs about the logistics concerning returning to school, but it is important to be universal in how we support children during this time, regardless of our role in their lives.

Emotional attunement is critical as children are talking to you about their day.  It is important to lead with empathy, kindness, and understanding.   Wearing a mask and eating lunch alone are difficult parts of this adjustment.  As a caregiver, it is essential to not lead with logic.  Emotions are never wrong.  Validate what your child or student is feeling.  It is also imperative to realize that we may not be able to fix the situation for them.  Instead of trying to fix the problem, create a safe place for the child to vent and emote.  Socialization may be at a minimum school, so they will need a place to talk and express the parts of their day.  Mindful movement will also be key during this time of adjustment.  If your child or student seems anxious or agitated, take a walk or create a dance party list within your home where everyone can dance out the negative energy.

Educators, administration, and parents are also trying to adjust to this new normal, so modeling healthy coping skills will be important.  Make sure that you are setting healthy boundaries and taking care of your physical and mental health.  If you have nervous energy in the home, children can easily pick up on that.  Create a place of peace by being authentic in your own emotions.  Everyone is adjusting to a new set of rules.  Allowing the space for people to be genuine will be a healthy way for children to express what they need at the time.

Whenever there is a sense of change in our lives, we grieve the past.  We grieve what we wanted to happen.  We grieve the anticipation of the future.  Recognizing that our families are dealing with significant grief is part of being true to ourselves and others. It is important to recognize that it ok to not be ok.  But once we are authentic in our emotions, and we express them in a safe place; we have developed a sense of community.  My hope is that within this chaos, you find your safe place, your sense of community.  Through this refuge, you will combat the feelings of isolation, and move towards a sense of safety and belonging for you, your families, and the people that you care about.