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Coronavirus (COVID-19); A Primer for Group Homes and Foster Care

Responding To Coronavirus (COVID-19)

SAFETY IN ROUTINE

When under stress, children find safety in routine. “Don’t let this time of social distancing become social isolation for your children and youth.”

Children learn how to deal with stress by watching the adults around them deal with it. Young ones—especially those who’ve experienced adverse experiences in their lives—are “extra attuned” to subtle adult signs of stress. Be conscious of your own mindfulness and need for calm at this time.

MINDFULNESS EXERCISE

If a child does have a meltdown (or an increased number of them) remember the 3 R’s of helping children through emotional outbursts:

Regulate: There is no reasoning with a person whose emotions are boiling over. Instead, meet them where they are and bring them to your level of calm. A good example would be to sit in a soft chair together and ask your child to breath with you. 

Relate: After they feel calm, it is important to reaffirm your unconditional acceptance of the child. Tell your child you understand their feelings, that feelings can sometimes be really strong and often overwhelming. Let them know you love them even when they are angry.

Reason: Only after the first two steps have been completed will children feel ready to listen and share. Now you can reason with the child. Include the child in creating positive alternatives for responding to overwhelming emotions.

THINGS TO DO

Books, cooking, music arts and crafts; this is a great opportunity to expand young minds in ways they are often too busy to pursue. It is also a chance to share mindfulness techniques together. I like to teach the children and youth I work with a Q.R.S. technique: There are three steps to it. As in all mindfulness techniques, it is important to be intentional and slow down your breathing with each step, then repeat them as often as necessary.

Q: “Quiet my brain (or mind)” let go of your racing thoughts and be present in the moment.

R: “Relax my body” (focus on a part of your body where you normally feel the stress; neck? shoulders? stomach? Wherever it is, focus on that part of your body and repeat this statement until you feel that part of your body relaxing.

S: “Smile and breath.” Slowly. When you sincerely smile for ninety seconds, it actually forces your body to release endorphins (dopamine) that stimulate the pleasure centers of your brain.

Keep in mind that your child is picking up messages about the coronavirus, some of which might be accurate, but many are not. Accuracy and optimism are critical aspects to overcoming feelings of helplessness that often occur during times like these. Show your child how to build on the things you can control and let go of the things you can’t control. You can tell your children to do this, but they need to see it role-modeled by you in order to adopt it as habitual behavior. Show them how you breathe deeply and count to ten when you feel sad or angry. Make a game of taking a moment between your feelings and your actions. You can even use sock puppets as characters in a play. Model the behavior, then let your child make up their own play.

This is an excellent time to sit down and create hand-written letters to loved ones, consider especially those in your family who are elderly or may be susceptible to Coronavirus (COVID-19), express your love and support to them. It is also a great time for children and youth to write (or draw) gratitude letters to people in their lives for whom they are grateful. Consider teachers, but you can also include people you do not know like Health Care workers, first responders and long-term care facility employees. 

Before meals, discuss things for which you are grateful. Gratitude is a very important habit to grow with children and practices like this will help children not only be grateful in the moment, but also look for things they can be thankful for throughout the day—and their lives!

There are a number of things that parents can model and children can do to both slow the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) and reduce the chance of infection. Here is a short list:

Hand washing: Wash hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds (the length of singing “Happy Birthday”) or use this time for mindfulness such as the QRS Technique above. If hand washing is unavailable, use a sanitizer, especially after coughing or sneezing and when handling food. A sanitizer is not as effective as hand-washing, but it does reduce a significant amount of germs.

Cough/sneeze etiquette: Cough and sneeze into your arm or a clean tissue.

Keep clean: Keep hands away from your face and mouth.

Social Distancing: Stay away from large groups and when in public, keep at least 2 meters (a little over 6 feet) from the people around you. Bump elbows and avoid shaking hands. For guidelines on parks and playgrounds, please see the article below (Playgrounds, babysitters, grandparents: What’s safe for kids in the age of coronavirus?)

Stay healthy: Stay healthy by eating healthy foods, keeping physically active, getting enough sleep. Check out the article below: The Body Coach Joe Wicks is holding online PE sessions for the nation's children.

Let your child know it is okay to be concerned about the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and that you are available to answer their questions. Responses don’t need to be complicated or scientific, simple and age-appropriate replies are best. If you are with an older child, looking for more in-depth responses, I’ve included two links (below) to the WHO website. Remember, regardless of age, it is always best to explore new information together. Avoid sending children and youth to explore the Internet alone. Consider the Internet is like a potentially dangerous neighborhood in your community. You wouldn’t send your child there alone nor should you send them to the Internet alone; there are too many dangers. Check out the article below, how to talk to children about coronavirus.

Canada has a resource available to children and youth that provides access to free mental health support. It’s called Kids Help Phone. It offers help in text, phone and live chat. It also helps children and youth locate available resources locally. Topics covered include COVID-19, anxiety, coping with tragedy, sexual assault, Q&A Counseling, dating, suicide, family issues and more. The link is provided below in the Online Resource section.

In an article from NPR (see link below), one high school teacher who is now home with his daughters is calling this a “Coranaissance”, combining the term Coronavirus with the Renaissance; a chance to grow the creative and artistic side of our children.

THINGS TO AVOID

The WHO (World Health Organization) has a list of things to avoid at this time.

COVID-19 has and is likely to affect people from many countries, in many geographical locations. Don’t attach it to any ethnicity or nationality. Be empathetic to those who got affected, in and from any country, those with the disease have not done anything wrong. ?

Don’t - refer to people with the disease as “COVID-19 cases”, “victims” “COVID-19 families” or the “diseased”. They are “people who have COVID-19”, “people who are being treated for COVID-19”, “people who are recovering from COVID-19” and after recovering from COVID- 19 their life will go on with their jobs, families and loved ones. ?

Avoid watching, reading or listening to news that cause you to feel anxious or distressed; seek information mainly to take practical steps to prepare your plans and protect yourself and loved ones. Seek information updates at specific times during the day once or twice. The sudden and near-constant stream of news reports about an outbreak can cause anyone to feel worried. Get the facts. Gather information at regular intervals, from WHO website and local health authorities’ platforms, in order to help you distinguish facts from rumors. 

TIME FOR “NOT-DOING”

Keep in mind your child doesn’t have to be busy all the time. Our brains are often in their most creative state during times of relaxed play. Neurologists refer to this as transient hypofrontality, which simply means letting the brain temporarily focus on an engaging task so the frontal lobe can take a break. Adults do this whenever they are super-absorbed in a craft. It’s a time when we are most available to creative learning. Plan time for solo play for your child; no electronics and no agenda.

ONLINE RESOURCES

  1. Kids Help Phone. https://kidshelpphone.ca
  2. Here is a list of Online Virtual Museum Tours you can take with your family. https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/75809/12-world-class-museums-you-can-visit-online
  3. The LA Times put together a list of online shows parents can watch with children to receive accurate information about the Coronavirus. https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/tv/story/2020-03-17/shows-for-kids-netflix-amazon-hulu-pbs-quarantine
  4. Tangi is a free application that is full of opportunities for learning. Their motto is “learning new things everyday.” https://tangi.co
  5. For those needing a little homework assistance, get an account (and a tutor) at the free website, Kahn Academy, learning is individualized and there are classes for any age, plus any topic including programming, science, mathematics. I remember when my daughter started trigonometry—even with an MBA—I could not keep up with her homework. Kahn Academy is the perfect resource to assist you in your child’s education. The teacher lessons are short and taught by highly rated experts. Kahn Academy just teamed up with Disney to create an online Imagineering course for those interested in creativity and the arts. https://www.khanacademy.org
  6. Also, you can watch Broadway shows at home with your children. https://www.broadwayhd.com
  7. Playgrounds, babysitters, grandparents: What’s safe for kids in the age of coronavirus? https://www.vox.com/2020/3/19/21185526/coronavirus-kids-safety-playgrounds-babysitters-grandparents
  8. The Body Coach Joe Wicks is holding online PE sessions for the nation's children. https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/uk/lifestyle/a31804366/the-body-coach-joe-wicks-live-pe-lessons/
  9. How to talk to children about coronavirus. https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/uk/news/a31669919/how-to-talk-to-children-about-coronavirus/
  10. Social Scene: Keeping your kids occupied during Coronavirus outbreak https://www.khon2.com/wake-up-2day/social-scene-keeping-your-kids-occupied-during-coronavirus-outbreak/
  11. What Some People Are Doing To Fill The Social Distancing Space. https://www.npr.org/2020/03/19/817778984/what-some-people-are-doing-to-fill-the-social-distancing-space
  12. Find the latest information from WHO on where COVID-19 is spreading: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/situation-reports/
  13. Advice and guidance from WHO on COVID-19: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019 https://www.epi-win.com/
  14. Saskatchewan Information on COVID-19: https://www.saskatchewan.ca/government/health-care-administration-and-provider-resources/treatment-procedures-and-guidelines/emerging-public-health-issues/2019-novel-coronavirus

 

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