RVES School Counselor Corner
Distance Learning Edition
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Talking to your child about COVID-19
Your day-to-day life is being impacted in unexpected and difficult ways. The COVID-19 pandemic is stressful, and it can seem overwhelming to deal with it right now, for both parents and students. Although difficult, it is important to talk to your child about how they are feeling about the scary things that are happening around us. Navigating these conversations may be different depending on the developmental age of your child, but allowing them to talk and process their feelings helps them manage the impacts of all the disruption. PBSKids.org offers great resources on having these conversations!
Talking to Your Child About Social Distancing
These 10 phrases can help you explain social distancing to your kids.
"We're all working together to fight this foe."
Children respond well when we personify things that are difficult to understand. Even through elementary school, they often think of the world in terms of good guys and bad guys, superheroes and villains. If we speak about germs as if they are tiny villains we are attempting to fight, children have a mission to latch onto, a larger purpose that extends beyond just obeying their parents' instructions.
For example, you could personify the virus (and give your child a "mission") by saying, "Right now we are all working together to stop coronavirus from spreading. The good news is that germs can't jump very far! If we stay far away from people, then the germs can't jump from person to person and make us all sick."
"Here's what we can do."
When we speak to our kids about this new reality, it's important to be concrete and spell out the things we cannot do in very clear terms, for example: "We have to stay far away from other people right now; we can't hug, or hold hands, or even go to each other's houses. What we can do is FaceTime, talk on the phone, write letters, and draw pictures we can send in the mail."
It's important to note the things we still can do in order to maintain strong connections with our loved ones. After all, physical distance is not the same as emotional distance, and many children can grasp that there are ways to feel very close to someone, while not being with them in the same space. Highlighting that, as well as providing opportunities for them to experience it (via FaceTime, Zoom chats and so on), will be critical.
"This is weird and different."
Children take comfort in knowing they are not alone in their emotional reactions. They are undoubtedly picking up on how strange things feel, how different things are now from the normal structure and routines of their daily lives. Pointing that out using simple language, and acknowledging that everyone is feeling the same will do a lot to regulate their emotional response.
"A lot of things are still the same."
When we acknowledge how different things feel right now, we also need to draw attention to things that are the same. This helps children recognize that there are still many parts of their lives that are familiar and recognizable. They still love Paw Patrol, or Frozen 2, or video games, they still get chocolate chip pancakes for breakfasts on Saturdays, they still have to brush their teeth. And they're still just as loved as ever - in fact, even more.
"You are safe."
Children show their stress in different ways: throwing more tantrums, being more moody, irritable or defiant, or regressing in a particular area such as language or potty training. However, your kids are showing that they're worried - or even if they are not yet - there is nothing more valuable than giving them a hug and letting them know you've got them and it's all going to be okay.
"There are so many grown-ups working together to help."
This is the famous wisdom from Mr. Rogers, that we need to look for the helpers in times of crisis. Talk to your children about the scientists working on finding the right medicines and vaccines, the doctors and other health care workers, the police and the supermarket stockers working hard to help us all.
Because it really does. And our kids will benefit if we validate that rather than trying to deny it or always paint a rainbow on it. It stinks that the school play, or the sports season, or the birthday party is canceled. It stinks that it's about the get really nice out, and we can't all get together for a picnic. It stinks that we can't see Grandma and Grandpa. It stinks that we can't give our best friends hugs. It really, really does.
"But also, there's a bright side."
Reframing is not the same as invalidating. You cannot say that this spring break is going to be the best one ever without your kids seeing right through you. You can, however, point out the silver linings - and in fact, there are many. Look at how many crafts we can do! Look how much screen time you're getting! OMG, we get to watch a whole movie (or two, or five) on a weekday?
"We are all in this together."
Children - and grown ups - feel more secure when they recognize that they are part of a larger community. For younger kids, it can be helpful to mane everyone else who is staying home as part of social distancing: "No one is seeing anyone right now - not Grandma, not Grandpa, not Uncle Ben, not Aunt Alison, not your friends from school." For older kids, talking about the different cities, states, and countries undergoing this can be comforting: :"10-year-olds in so many places aren't allowed to see their friends right now."
"We are taking this one day - sometimes even one hour - at a time."
Kids (and again, grown-ups too) will get overwhelmed if they start thinking about having to make these life adjustments for too long. Missing school, or their friends or Grandma and Grandpa, for the upcoming months can feel very overwhelming. Instead, focus on what is going to happen today, and on what we can do to stay in the present moment.
And remember, sometimes giving comfort isn't about having "the right words" at all - it's as simple as a really long, extra-tight cuddle.
There is an abundance of resources available to students and families during this time. Between read-alouds, apps, articles, and technology tools, it is hard to keep up with them all! We have picked out a few of our favorite go-to resources! Below are a couple books and read-aloud links for your child!
In My Heart: A book of Feelings
A young girl explores what different emotions feel like, such as happiness, which makes her want to twirl, or sadness, which feels as heavy as an elephant.
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
Alexander is having a bad day. Nothing seems to be going his way. Use this book to help children learn to focus on what is happening as a way to identify how someone feels.
Even Superheroes Have Bad Days
This book reveals the many ways superheroes (and ordinary children) can resist the super-temptation to cause a scene with ideas to help kids cope when they are feeling overwhelmed.
Sunny is disappointed because her mom says she can’t have more cookies before dinner. Sunny has lost her smile. She searches for it everywhere. She finally finds it when she finds a way to overcome her disappointment.
The Invisible String
The Invisible String teaches us that "even though you cannot see it with your eyes, you can feel it in your heart and know that you are always connected to everyone you love". Some of us may be having feelings of grief during this time of separation, and this book reiterates that we are all connected some way, some how.
Physical Activity Resources
We are fortunate that the weather outside has allowed for plenty of wiggle time! Take your work outside and let the kids dig, play, or just observe nature. Below are a couple great resources to help keep your kiddos moving!
Cosmic Kids Yoga - free yoga resources for young children!
Go Noodle - short videos to get kids moving!
KidzBop Kids - records kid-friendly versions of today’s biggest pop music hits sung by kids, for kids!
Brain Break Resources
Brain breaks are more important than ever during distance learning. Below are several awesome links to give your child a break in the day.
BrainPOP - provides movies with social/emotional learning components that students can watch and respond to.
MindYeti - practice mindfulness during this time of chaos! This site is offering free guided mindfulness sessions and videos for you and your child!
PBSKids.org - on the bottom of the page, check out videos, games, and activites all about hand washing and staying healthy!
Non-screen Activities You Can Do From Home
What can teachers and parents do when there’s no school? Online learning from home offers children opportunities to develop and learn new skills at the touch of a button. However, screen time for the entire length of the school day can have a negative effect on children's wellbeing. To help, we’ve rounded up some fun, non-screen activities that can be done at home and support independent learning.