By Sue Williams
The coronavirus is top of mind these days, and we are all overwhelmed with information about what we should do to keep ourselves and others healthy and safe. Much like our anticipation of a hurricane, the uncertainty is the difficult part in the early days. Will it hit us? How long from now? Have we prepared enough? When will we be back to normal? We all have many unanswerable questions at the time.
These are uneasy times for everyone, but especially children and their families. School cancellations, rapidly changing health alerts, business closings, and orders to stay home all become significant stressors to kids and parents. And for families that may already be under strain due to complex issues such as food or housing instability, the social distancing and quarantines can exacerbate their frustration and isolation, making some especially vulnerable. In previous times of stress and crisis, we have seen rates of child abuse rise.
While we all work to maintain that safe physical distance – and frequently wash our hands – there are specific things we can do to help ease social isolation and keep children and families safe during these challenging days.
Be patient with yourself and give grace to others
We are in the midst of an incomprehensible situation that requires an inordinate amount of mental energy to consider scenarios once unthinkable. Allow yourself the grace, patience and the peace of mind to process all that has come and will continue to come our way. Offer those around you the same. These are stressful and distracting days.
Help meet basic needs
If you are able, consider a financial contribution to a community-based organization that is serving families. Reach out to a neighbor with a bag of snacks or deliver dinner. Donate canned goods to the local food pantry. For those living paycheck to paycheck, a little bit of help can make a big difference. And the collective generosity of our community can add up.
Help our Children’s Trust partners across the state
Please check out a list of our grantees in your communities. They do great work and will make wise use of any donation, be it cash or supplies such as diapers, wipes and disinfecting products. While some may not be currently open, at some point we will all get back to business and they will need your support.
Connect others to organizations that are actively helping families
From school nutrition workers to family shelters, many organizations are working hard on behalf of families and their children during these uncertain times. Learn who is doing what in your backyard. Share their great work on social media. Encourage your circles to support them with donations. Most importantly, be sure that you are connecting folks in need with organizations that are ready and able to help.
Be a friend to families
Call your friends, families and neighbors. Think about how you can connect to those around you in safe, physically distant ways – Facebook groups, Snapchat and other social media tools give you the ability to check in without leaving home. From the new mom who needs to know that all babies cry to the grandmother taking care of children out of school, an encouraging voice can be a lifeline. People, especially those under stress, need to feel emotionally and psychologically supported.
Build your personal resilience
Managing stress is a learned skill for parents and their children. Tap into your faith, reach out to someone when you feel yourself getting overwhelmed, or use your employee assistance program as available. Take a few minutes away from everyone else to collect your thoughts and decompress, even if it in the next room or a walk around the block. Know that your anxiety is understandable.
Helps kids understand their feelings
Start a dialogue with your kids by asking if they have any questions, rather than asking if they are OK. The question itself can lead children to worry. Routines have been upended, which can be especially hard for the youngest family members. As much as possible, stay on a regular meal and activity schedule. While we know flexibility is important right now, balance it with the consistency that children need.
Like so many other businesses and organizations, Children’s Trust employees are all working remotely, but we are open for business and look forward to hearing from you should you need any help or have questions.
Finally, while the new coronavirus concerns are very real and sometimes overwhelming, I do take heart. We have seen the great people of South Carolina reach out again and again to help their neighbors in need, and there is no doubt that they will do the same in this crisis.
Thank you for what you are doing now and for what I know you will continue to do in the future to help the families and your community get through these unnerving days.
Sue Williams is the CEO of Children’s Trust of South Carolina, a nonprofit organization fighting child abuse, injury and neglect. This post was originally published by Children’s Trust, and is being reprinted by permission.