Sunday, March 22, 2020

March 22 Update

Dear Parents and Guardians,

I hope this message finds you well.  I would like to begin by thanking our custodial staff who does not have the option to stay home and has continued to work to take care of the building despite the school closure.  For those of you who are, or have loved one who are, health care workers - or are in professions that put them in the front line of this outbreak - please know that McCall appreciates all your sacrifices and hard work.

I had the opportunity to take part in a webinar this past Wednesday held by the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence (the creators of the RULER approach) on the topic of managing anxiety over the COVID-19 outbreak, and I would like to share with you the following information I gained regarding supporting children through this period of uncertain times.

Take Cues from the Kids - There are a lot of information regarding the COVID-19 outbreak for all of us to process, so we adults may have trouble deciding what information to share with our children.  We may find some kids have a lot of questions about this matter, while others have little or nothing to say.  The folks at Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence recommends that we take cues from the kids themselves when deciding what to say.  We should engage in discussions with those kids who ask us questions and initiate conversations with us about the outbreak.  However, we should also feel comfortable not compelling kids to talk about it at all if they do not show interest in discussing this subject matter.

Don’t Assume Feelings – We all express our emotions in our very own ways, so what a child shows on the outside may not be what he or she is feeling inside.  For example, a meltdown about doing a Distance Learning activity may not an expression of anger about the work.  Instead, the student may be worried about a sports competition being cancelled instead of being postponed.

Reassure with Facts – During this time of uncertainty, there are a lot things that we do not know and cannot guarantee.  Therefore, we should only share with kids what we do know and are made available through trusted sources like the CDC and Massachusetts Department of Public Health websites rather than social media posts.  We cannot guarantee kids that they, or we, will never get sick, but we can reassure them that we know hand washing and social distancing will greatly reduce our ability to contract and spread the virus. 

Discuss What You are Doing to Keep Them and Your Family Safe – The CDC website included below has many good recommendations about how to keep your household healthy and safe.  It will be helpful to share with your children which of these steps you have taken and the plans you have put in place to respond to emergencies.  The recommendation to make sure a list of emergency contacts is readily available to all members of the family is, in my opinion, particularly crucial.

Do Activities Together – The school closure is giving many of us significant amount of Forced Family Time.  Instead of seeing this as a time to drive each other bonkers – which happens often in the Lin household – it will be helpful to see this as an opportunity for everyone in the family to come together and do something positive.  For example, what are some activities and projects everyone can do to help those who are vulnerable (e.g., nursing home residents who are now isolated or neighbors who feeling the financial impacts of a slowed economy).  Hint: this will be the focus of Mr. Lin’s School Closure Challenge #3.

Lastly, I would like to share with you the website my former colleague from Groton-Dunstable Regional School District, Dr. Katie Novak, and her colleague has created to help all parents and caretakers manage these Forced Family Time.  Dr. Novak is a renowned guru on Universal Design for Learning (UDL), so you will find this resource contains quite a lot of ideas that are accessible to all kids regardless of their interests and learning styles.

Thank you and stay healthy, stay strong and stay home!

James Lin
McCall Middle School

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