Written by FAST Director of Research & Innovation Dr. Robyn Sperling
In this time of great uncertainty, we are all, understandably, stressed and confused. As we navigate our way through a very difficult period, there are many resources we can turn to for support. From community resources for food assistance to online resources for activities to keep children occupied to social resources to help us reach out to our friends and family, there are a variety of ways we can come together to help one another through the challenges posed by the spread of coronavirus — and all of these ideas are consistent with the values and beliefs of FAST.
Communities are coming together in this time of need. One of the key values of FAST is that “trusting relationships support the ability of families to access helping resources.” Trusting one another and the community to help with resources and support is crucial in difficult times. Right now, many school districts and YMCAs are providing boxed meals to children while schools are closed. Food banks and pantries are providing emergency food to families. Some public utilities are easing shutoffs and waiving late fees to accommodate consumers who may be struggling financially during the coronavirus outbreak.
Another key belief of FAST is that “stress and social isolation diminish parental effectiveness; social support increases parental effectiveness.” These are stressful times for us all. And while physically gathering is difficult, there are many ways parents can and should support one another while Social Distancing: schedule FaceTime or Skype sessions with friends to check in on how they are doing, get a group of people together via Zoom or Google Hangout and play a virtual game or have a dance party, or even just call your family or friends to say hello. Many religious and community groups are offering social distancing opportunities online, including live streams of church services, concerts, and museums. Take a walk in your neighborhood and wave to neighbors to remind one another that we are all here and we are all going through this strange new reality.
Like most of the world right now, I am practicing social distancing. For me, this means being at home with my 4-year-old and 17-month-old (while also attempting to work from home). As I plan activities to keep the kiddos occupied and prepare to spend unknown weeks or months with this new reality, I keep thinking about the many ways that FAST’s values and beliefs are being reinforced in these uncertain times.
At FAST, we always say, “Parents are capable of being the primary teachers and nurturers for their own children.” Never has that been clearer than right now. Parents are helping their kids with online assignments, taking on homeschooling roles, and generally spending more time with their kids as everyone is staying in their homes. And while the situation is difficult and filled with uncertainty, it also provides opportunities for families to play together, talk with one another, and be present for one another.
While families are home together, we can engage in special play, where the child takes the lead in an unstructured activity and the parent follows. We can have “buddy time,” where each person gets 7.5 minutes of uninterrupted speaking time while the other person just listens. We can have family meals, where the children serve the parents, giving kids opportunities to help out and giving parents a much-needed break. We can create new family rituals to bond our families closer together. All of these activities strengthen families, are backed by research, and are fun ways to pass the time.
We are all experiencing stress as our daily routines change, and we are encouraged to remain home. But we can see this as an opportunity to spend more time and strengthen the bonds with those we love. I might be getting less work done these days, but my kids are happy to be home with me, drawing pictures, having dance parties, and making memories. Though we have a long road ahead, we will get through this — TOGETHER.