Offering Hope and Encouragement to kids during COVID-19
A message of Hope from Dr. Emilie, DeYoung, LMSW, ACSW – Winning at Home, a partner with Kids Hope USA
I would like to extend warm greetings to the Kids Hope USA community—mentors and directors—that faithfully serve on the front lines of KHUSA on a regular basis along with all of our school partners, students and families that are a part of our wider family. You are treasured! While this week has been replete with worldwide changes, an array of health crises, and daily uncertainty, there is no better time for us to rise to the challenge and bring Hope to chaos. We have unending peace, hope and joy that begs to be shared. As you navigate the next several weeks, I would encourage you to consider a few practical tips that I believe will draw our little ones into feelings of comfort and safety.
1) You. As an adult, you are a blessing and the best bridge to peace and hope. When you remain calm and steady in the midst of chaos, kids notice. They will be drawn to you. They will seek safety and comfort from you. Your presence and modeling communicate more than words. Even though you are no longer able to see your child at school, there are many ways to connect with kids that do not require face to face contact. I would encourage you to write notes and let kids know you are thinking of them. Perhaps you can call them or offer to FaceTime. Hearing your voice and knowing that you remain constant can be a source of great encouragement. It helps them to know that you are “holding them” in your mind.
2) During times of change and uncertainty, kids often do best when they can count on some structure and routine. That being said, I suspect it will be terribly difficult for our students to enjoy consistent routines over the course of the next few weeks. Even so, checking in with students once a week allows you to give them something to look forward to, even a bit of predictability. As you connect, you can confirm that their basic needs are being met. Perhaps you can ask how they are spending their time? Do they have fears or concerns? Creating space for them to be heard can dispel fear. Also, encourage kids to consider the “3 for 20” guidelines: each day, it is important to play (preferably without screens) for at least 20 minutes, read for at least 20 minutes, and “help” for at least 20 minutes. Helping might include a few chores at home, or writing a card for a teacher or neighbor. Research shows that moods improve and anxiety lessens when there is a concerted effort to look outside of self. Another possibility might include creating and sharing a Thanksgiving Journal. You and your student can record 3 things per day for which you are thankful.
3) Be honest and clear. If a child has lots of questions, give honest and age appropriate answers. Early elementary students will benefit from brief and simple information. When in doubt, let the child lead with questions that are important to him/her and listen carefully. There are times when adults assume that kids are worried about things that are not even on their radar. Letting the child lead creates opportunity to address concerns appropriately. For upper elementary students, you may have the opportunity to help them separate reality from fantasy. Older students also benefit from knowing that adults and leaders are working hard to ensure safety. It might be helpful to remind students that at the present moment, there are very few people in our nation who are sick. There are many more people who are healthy! Since COVID-19 is thought to spread between those who are in close contact with one another, closings and postponements are intended to prevent the spread of the disease and keep kids safe.
4) It can be helpful to help kids focus on the things that they can control. While practicing good hygiene is important, you can emphasize that kids can be the boss of their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Maybe together you can create two separate lists including some things that can’t be controlled and other things that can.
As you maintain contact with your mentee, you can be confident that “Every child you encounter is a divine appointment.” -Wes Stafford
Blessings to each of you! Be the bridge to hope…