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Saturday / August 8

Navigating Uncharted Waters: Guiding Principles for Educators and Caregivers During Coronavirus 

Minute by minute, our world as we know it is changing before our eyes. Faced with such tremendous uncertainty, imagine what this feels like to our children! How best can we support them? 

For starters, we must be adaptable and recognize that academics are far less important than offering solace and hope so that we encourage social connections when they may feel anxious. Relationships are the most important thing.  

What’s more, we must recognize that we live in an unjust world and this crisis will only aggravate and exacerbate it. Consider the most vulnerable among us. We must halt any xenophobic or racist acts or comments. We must ensure specialneeds students have access. Schools are in the unique position to create systems and structures to give priority to children with basic physical and psychological needs.  

In this blog post, we offer some guiding principles linked to tools/resources to anchor us. As educators and caregivers, it is incumbent we all rise to the occasion to make the world as safe as we can for our children while navigating these uncharted waters. 

Be sure to take care of yourself  

Why: When circumstances change so quickly, humans can go into shock. This raises our cortisol levels, which lead to a heightened and ongoing state of survival stress, causing that part of our brain that reasons and solves problems to shut down. And increased cortisol levels can deplete our physical resources and make us more susceptible to a virus. 

Educators/Caregivers: 

  • Attend to basic health and safety needs, especially with family and loved ones. 
  • Take time to acknowledge your feelings, using techniques to ground and restore yourselves. 
  • Regulate the news you watch if it raises anxiety.   
  • Hold realistic expectations for yourselves and others. Avoid judging.  
  • Aim to stay healthy (nutritious eating and exercise), feel gratitude, and rely on your go-to strategies for calming yourself.  

Include young people in dialogue, especially relating to things they have deep questions about 

Why: When kids are excluded from conversations for fear of overwhelming them or wanting to shelter them, anxiety grows. That said, bombarding them with information can be equally overwhelming. 

Educators:  

Caregivers:  

  • Find out their questions, respond to their concerns. It’s okay not to have answers.  

Short booklet to explain Covid-19 to kids under 7 

Guidelines for talking to kids about the Coronavirus 

Recognize stress, shock, and grief and prioritize being over doing. 

Why: When the body experiences overwhelming stress without the resources to respond, it experiences trauma. We must respond to stress compassionately and support grief as it arises in appropriate ways that are not overwhelming. 

Educators: Take the time to consider each of your student’s needs. Consider who is most vulnerable, who lacks Internet access, and any other needs. Reach out through calls, texts, and other means.  

  • Elementary schools: Contact each child regularly. 
  • Middle/High schools: Use advisory/homeroom classes or identify a common period so every student has one teacher checking in.  

CaregiversHelp kids understand that strong feelings are part of life and expressing them helps with healing.  

Strategies for supporting young children 

Strategies for supporting teens 

  • Adjust expectations for productivity and prioritize “being present by meditating, rituals, and practicing mindfulness. 

Trauma-informed mindfulness practices 

  • Create ways they can express their feelings.  

Expressive Arts Activities

Reaffirm and support identity 

Why: Even young children sense our anxiety, while older kids may feel the ground has been taken up from under them, destabilizing their sense of self.  

Educators/Caregivers 

  • Listen to what the youth have to say and reassure them.  
  • Affirm, teach, and model love, care, compassion, and kindness.  
  • Help our kids value their social identities and backgrounds while respecting others.  

Promoting A Sense Of Self: School-Age Children 

Identity Activities for K-5 

Discovering My Identity grades 3-5 

Identity activities for 13 to 18 year olds 

Empower positive relationships with supportive adults and peers 

Why? We are social creatures and our brains regulate through human interaction. Social engagement helps everyone feel safer. 

Educators:  

  • In the absence of physical contact, facilitate positive and safe relationships. Expand and monitor opportunities for interaction by finding electronic tools. Make sure you find ways to reach all students. See technology resources for educators. 
  • Here are tips for school leaders to connect with and reassure staff.  

Caregivers 

  • Check in daily with your kids, enable their one-on-one contact with friends. Try not to schedule every minute for your child. Create a flexible day to include creativity, exercise, art, writing, music, gardening, cooking, having fun. Kids can learn in new ways during this time. Here is a simple guide and tips for nurturing kids at home. 

Educators/Caregivers 

Share a sense of meaning, purpose, and direction. 

Why: We all need a sense of meaning and purpose, which gives us a place to put our energy in something that matters. It quells fears, and offers hope and healing.  

Educators/Caregivers: 

  • Cultivate empathic listening and social responsibility.  

Find Your Purpose Toolkit for Students/ Parents/Educators  

Helping High Schoolers Find Purpose  

Let’s Reach Out to Each Other for Ideas and Support 

Please share these principles and resources with your networks. Feel free to contact us.  

Click here if you’d like to see a list of Free Educational Resources for Remote Learning these authors have compiled. 

Click here to see a list of Technology Resources for Educators. 

Written by

This article was a collaborative effort by Becki Cohn-Vargas, new grandmother, educational leader, author, and presenter; Carlee Adamson mother, teacher, somatic practitioner and trainer in trauma-responsive practiceSimone Torrey mother, facilitator for online collaboration, conflict transformation and future-ready organizations. 

Latest comment

  • Well written. Practical steps to take during this difficult time. I appreciate having the links for additional resources. Thank you for this blog, Becki, Carlee and Simone.

    Don Cox
    Adjunct faculty at NDNU, former principal and child advocate.

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