(This is a guest post by Dr. Joiselle Cunningham, CEO of Pathways to Creative Industries and Senior Advisor at HERE to HERE. Joiselle previously served in the Obama Administration and received her doctorate from Harvard Graduate School of Education. You can find resources to learn more about trauma informed practices on pathwaystocreativeindustries.com.)
We all find ourselves in a new normal, where schools, daycares centers and postsecondary institutions are closed, some moving instruction online. Many students and families were not fully equipped for the change, and families continue to scramble to access resources for the young people in their lives to continue to learn at home. At the same time, COVID-19 has disproportionately affected African American and Latinos communities and cases continue to rise around the country.
As we transition to new ways of supporting our young people from home, we have shared tools for caregivers who support young children during this time. The following provides three ways to approach support for middle and high school students in their virtual internships and at home learning, as well as a resource list to learn more about working with people who may have experienced trauma associated with COVID-19.
Acknowledge that this is an uncertain time.
Safety first. This article is for families who have managed to find ways to ensure that safety and security are in place. Unfortunately, that is not possible for many families at this time. For those reading this who are able to keep their families safe, there are ways that you can contribute to the safety and security of our communities by donating to food banks, family domestic violence shelters, as well as supporting small businesses via online sales.
However, we must acknowledge that this time is uncertain and have conversations with our children about the emotional toll they may experience. Every situation is different and teasing out the impact on your family may help to support young people’s understanding of their own feelings and the emotional impact of this season.
Promote reflection and critical thinking through conversation.
Many non-educator parents have shared with us that they assume that the learning that takes place at home has to be structured, however, young people learn from hearing adults speak, reflect on issues and discuss ideas. Conversations on a topic of interest can be great ways to support critical thinking. You might ask your children to share the facts about why they think school should reopen or remain closed and to share the evidence they have gathered. A debate can help them to learn new vocabulary and to create an argument that makes sense. This type of thinking is useful at any age.
Model tools for managing stress.
You might share that it is normal to feel anxious, sad or frustrated during this time. After reflecting on these feelings, you might share tools for managing stress. Nature walks, journaling and meditation are all ways that you may model managing stress and acknowledging feelings related to the pandemic.
During this time, it is important to spend time checking in on the young people you support as a caregiver. We are all finding out how to navigate this new reality, but it is critical to listen to what young people and their families are experiencing. Your support will help them to continue to learn with the psychosocial supports needed to be successful.