Written by FAST Founder Dr. Lynn McDonald in collaboration with FAST.
Our wonderful Executive Director, Ms. Toni Rivera-Joachin, has asked me to write for the FAST blog during this challenging time of COVID. I am grateful for this invitation, as I am very grateful for having met so many wonderful parents, team members, trainers, and supervisors across the world over the years.
If you are reading this, please accept my best wishes for your health and that of your family and loved ones. I send my prayers to all of those who are struggling with COVID, for healing and recovery, and that you are able to be in the light and surrounded by love. I ask you to be aware and to keep an open heart for the people struggling in your community and in our world. Expressing your kindness and support for even just a few minutes a day from your home can help. I am also grateful for the essential workers who are going out each day and working so that we can stay ‘safe at home.’ They deserve protection and health care for their generosity to us all.
And if you are a parent of young children, please know that I consider you to be Parents as Heroes of COVID. You are also essential workers, as you are raising the next generation. We are here for you and want to support you – mothers, fathers, and caregivers of young children! Please look in the mirror and see yourself.
During these uncertain terms, guidelines for parents suggest that children need and deserve three things: predictability, nurturance, and safety. These values have long been promoted by the FAST Program, which is structured around evidence-based activities designed to encourage family bonding and to build strong social networks and relationships that families can turn to and rely on for support – especially during a crisis.
Children need and like predictability, and sticking to a routine. FAST activities like Special Play (one-to-one time), Scribbles, and Feeling Charades can be incorporated into your daily routine. You can also designate time for meals and snacks, family exercise and games, music and dancing, reading, drawing, relaxing (flat-on-back time one hour after lunch is highly recommended), and a household bedtime. Don’t forget to create and decorate a family flag! For more ideas about how to adapt FAST at Home, read this blog post.
It is also extremely important to take care of yourself along with your children. How can you nurture your child if you are highly stressed and socially isolated? While it may be challenging, nurturing and seeking support for yourself is vital for your ability to be there for your child! I recommend scheduling regular Buddy Time to call and talk through your day with a relative, friend, neighbor, or FAST parent over the phone, as well as scheduling weekly Group Time to connect with other parents of young children to discuss good stay-at-home parenting ideas and share frustrations over video chat.
Safety is also a priority. That means staying safe at home, checking for COVID symptoms, and washing hands. It also means doing our best to protect children from adverse childhood experiences. While the circumstances that we are living in are uncontrollable, protective factors like a supportive family environment and social network can help mitigate negative impacts. Virtual resources from schools, organizations, and institutions are also increasingly being made available in an effort to connect with, support, and remind families that no one is alone in this.
Together, we will get through this challenging time, and the pandemic will end. Over history, positive world changes have come after diseases and wars; what we are experiencing now is an opportunity for us to envision how the world could be better, fairer, and kinder for all people. And it is you all, the parents of young children, who are caring for and shaping the lives of our future citizens for the new world that will be coming. You are the Parents as Heroes. Bravo!
Thank you for taking the time to read this. I send you my gratitude for being Parents as Heroes. I am also thankful for the kindnesses others are offering to me each day – sending me a note, delivering food, sending flowers, sharing emails with jokes to help me laugh, and making phone calls to check in with me on how I am doing, and then staying on the phone for a good chat. I am so grateful for my own health at this time, and especially grateful for the health of my family. I pray each day during COVID for those who have lost their lives or the lives of loved ones.
Warmly, and with love and support,
Dr. Lynn McDonald; Professor Emeritus of Social Work, Middlesex University, London, England; Senior Scientist Emeritus, School of Education, WCER, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Dr. Lynn McDonald inspired the “Parents as Heroes” initiative recently launched by One City Schools to provide support to families during COVID-19. Read more from the Wisconsin State Journal. She has also advocated for the recognition of Parents as Heroes in an opinion piece published in the same paper. Read more.