By now, you must feel inundated by everything COVID-19! From hand-washing to face mask wearing to social distancing! Your mind is likely overrun with images and statistics and articles and warnings! You may feel overwhelmed by the economic, medical, and the speculative! Yes, these days are strange indeed. As strange and challenging as they are for adults, imagine for a moment how challenging they must be for children and adolescents!
Many who read this have children of your own and don’t need me reminding you how tough it is! Some who read this work with children outside your home in some supportive capacity in addition to having children under your roof. Some serve as mentors, coaches, teachers, counselors and the like . Regardless of the arena in which you find yourself, working with children is the common denominator.
Very often when life creates chaos, we find ourselves frantically searching for anything that makes working with kids a little easier. More often than not, those “anythings” involve technology and innovation. As much as we may like the bells and whistles of technology, the simple connections with others make all the difference. In times like these, relationships are everything.
Children and adolescents NEED to know that they matter. They need to know that they are cared for, valued, and loved by others – especially significant adults outside their home. More often than we care to know or admit, WE – you and I – may be THE significant adult in a child’s life.
With the forced isolation and distancing in which we find ourselves, maintaining and nurturing the relationships we have with children can seem daunting. And yet, this process can be one of the most beneficial and rewarding in which we participate. What are some things we can do to connect with children and adolescents right now? Allow me to share a few thoughts:
- Make a list of children, adolescents, students with whom you have a relationship of influence.
- Reach out to the parent of that young person to see how things are going.
- Share with the parent how much you value their child.
- Ask if there is anything you can do for THEM first since they will typically be the person in charge of direct care for the student.
- Ask permission to visit with their child indicating that you would like to maintain connections despite the restrictions in place.
- Then touch base with the child.
- Send emails.
- Make calls.
- Write a”real letter” or card and send it in the mail.
- Communicate how much you value them.
- Encourage them to tap their personal strengths, resiliency, and creativity.
- Let them know you’re there now and will be in the future.
- Stay consistent.
- Do what your promise.
- Let them know that this is temporary and not permanent.
If you love children/adolescents and love working with them, this time may be as frustrating for you as it is for them. You may find yourself wrapped up in the maddening details of survival and fail to reach out as you normally would. If this is the case, you may begin to feel as if you have let them down. . . . You haven’t! Take a moment, set an intention to reach out and then . . . do it! You efforts will make a WORLD of difference! Remember . . . Relationships are everything!
Mark E. Hundley