Tomorrow’s Thanksgiving and while my husband and I are used to celebrating on our own, I know many of you are doing the right, selfless thing by staying home to celebrate with immediate family only. Some of you are facing a first Thanksgiving without loved ones due to COVID-19. Please know that we’re thinking and praying for you.
This has been a year of constant anxiety, trauma, uncertainty, and unrest. Therefore, as we, hopefully, stay home and gather with immediate family, may we try to find things we’re grateful for even if it is small. May we think or look at the children in our lives and consider the type of world we want for them. One full of divisions and hate and bad church doctrine. Or one full of unity, love, kindness and compassion.
As we continue to deal with this COVID-19 pandemic, the lack of empathy is so apparent in this country. People not wanting to do the simplest things to protect others from the virus. Anti-maskers are shouting about their rights and, ironically, they are using the pro-choice slogan, “My body, my right.” This totally disregards the lives of others. If one is truly pro-life, one cares about the life way after birth! Otherwise, it’s just pro-birth!
Empathy is the ability to put yourself in another’s shoes to understand as much as possible in order to try to understand what the other person is feeling or going through. One can feel the same feelings as the other person or at least get an idea of what the other person is going through.
Empathy is a learned behavior. While some children are born with more empathy than others, infants, toddlers, and preschoolers are naturally egocentric due to their developmental stage. This is a survival mechanism and not a “bad thing.” Adults can help the development of empathy by modeling it to their children and pointing out feelings of others—whether positive or negative.
I talked a bit about helping children understand about COVID-19 in my previous post, but here’s a great book written by a teacher that helps further explain this highly contagious, dangerous, damaging, and deadly virus in a developmentally appropriate way. If you are one who is not taking this seriously, please read this story!
While places are now opened and the topic of going back to school rages on, and schools are opening only to have cases of COVID-19 the first week of school, the numbers of positive cases continues to rise. I am truly saddened by the fact that this health crisis has become political and empathy for people who are high risk, children, teachers, healthcare workers seems to be going by the wayside. Except for the rare medical appointment and the fact that my chosen family owns a private tattoo shop and keeps people out while I am there, my quarantine hasn’t ended. I try to wear a mask but it falls down because of spasms due to my severe cerebral palsy. Anti-maskers laugh that I am not able to be in public because too many people are worried about their own comfort and rights to have empathy for those who can’t wear a mask and/or are high risk. What a horrible example they are setting for our children.
As an early childhood professional,I don’t recommend children going back to school until this virus is under control.I know it’s hard for poor families and I worry about social-emotional development of the children, but we have to realize that even if children are less likely to get seriously ill,some are going to get seriously ill or get the inflammatory disease that kills them.Not to mention bringing it home to the family and then we don’t know who will get mild symptoms and who will be hospitalized and on a ventilator.
I am so grateful for everyone who is wearing masks and protecting people like me who can’t wear masks easily and then the health care workers busting their butts to fight this pandemic.
Children who are old enough to wear a mask in public should! While some children will have an easier time adjusting to wearing a mask, it is possible to help them with it.
Here are some things that we can do to help children adjust to wearing a mask:
Always wear a mask yourself when out in public. Actions speak louder than words!
Educate them about how masks help protect others and them. If they like superheroes, compare them to being a superhero for wearing masks because superheroes always protect others from dangerous situations. There are some wonderful children’s books to read to them to further encourage them to wear a mask in public. I recommend this book.
Start with short periods of time wearing a mask and do a fun activity to help distract them from the mask.
Let the child pick out a few masks and/or let him/her decorate one so he/she wants to wear it.
Try different masks for the most comfortable one for the child.
Validate feelings about wearing a mask and tell the child that it is uncomfortable sometimes but it is the only way to go anywhere.
Keep little hands busy so they don’t constantly touch the mask.
Always have extra masks on hand or in the children’s backpacks because they are going to drop, throw, spill, forget masks so they need extras on them whenever they are in public. Also, keep hand sanitizer with you and/or them for washing their hands.
Make up a silly song to sing such as, “This is the way we wear our masks” to the tune of Farmer Brown.
Turn mask wearing into a game to see who can keep theirs on the longest.
Use mirrors in the car to have everyone put them on at the same time.
If for any reason the child has a meltdown and refuses to wear the mask when you get to have a destination and you have to go in, take some deep breaths, make sure that the child doesn’t have an unmet need, the mask isn’t pinching or hurting him/her, and carry the child in if it isn’t possible to have someone bring stuff out to you.
Never make wearing a mask into a power struggle. This will make the child want to wear it even less. If the child is showing you that he/she is not ready for a mask, make sure that he/she knows that going out is not an option without a mask.
This is a very uncertain time for everyone. We are all extremely stressed and anxious and children are no exception. Regression during times of extreme upheaval and stress is normal for children, so try to hold space for it and your own feelings.
The only way we will get through this pandemic is to have empathy for each other and do what we need to do to stop the spread of the virus. We can do this TOGETHER!!!!
The past few months have been really difficult for me with the Covid-19 pandemic and being super high risk. It has made me struggle with dealing with my own trauma, trying to do what is right and safe regarding the trauma of having a mother who can’t give me what I need, but still wanting her and my other biological family to remain safe. I have felt isolated and anxious and depressed. Being so high risk due to my asthma and severe Cerebral Palsy (CP) has made me angry when I finally realized how serious this virus is for many and seeing how people just don’t want to do what we need to do to be safe!
Life with CP is limiting and even though we find a way to do stuff that I want to do, it’s not easy like typical people who are able to just jump in the car and go. My state is in Phase 3 of reopening and I got my first non-essential, non-medical outing this week to my tattoo artists and chosen family to finish my Samoset kitty tattoo that was started before the outbreak and lockdown started. I was only able to do it because they locked the door and my husband and I were the only ones in there besides the artists. Masks were worn and sanitizer was used even more.
Samoset tattoo by Todd Bass at Triphammer Carbondale.
Throughout this pandemic, I have been aware of all the different aspects of it. My mental health as well as others have suffered due to isolation, people are losing everything, suicide is up. There’s so much to this pandemic and it is so sad that some elected officials are not doing everything they can to prevent this from being so out of control.
I know children and parents are struggling. I think the best thing to do for children is to create routines that are flexible and, if they are old enough, allow them to have a say in the routines. And as I’m sure you have already heard, answer questions honestly but briefly depending on their age and development.
This is scary for the children too. They have lost a lot and they may not be able to understand why. So I have heard a lot of regression in children’s behaviors have been happening from parents. This is so hard because I know parents are stressed out too. I recommend reassuring the children and finding an activity such as meditation or reading or yoga to help calm stress and fear. This is not an easy time for anyone.
Now we have a horrible murder of a black man, George Floyd, that has set off protests and riots in the midst of a pandemic. It is so scary and sad. Racism has got to stop!
I used to say “all lives matter” and even wrote a blog post in which I used “All Lives Matter” for the title of the post that covered every race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and, of course, children mattering.
Having a severe physical disability made me question, “what about other minorities?” I was a Republican slowly making my way towards Libertarianism at the time. I am now a Libertarian and while I still love Jesus, I’m no longer into mainstream Christianity anymore due to the legalism, bad church doctrine, and abuse, and hate.
I now understand the Black Lives Matter movement and right now this group of people desperately need our support, validation, and LOVE! Saying “all lives matter” doesn’t do this for black people who are hurting badly. Jesus immediately went to the people in desperate need no matter who they are. Jews didn’t hang around Samaritan people but Jesus did.
I know many Christians and conservatives won’t hear me because I was the same way about this topic and I had to figure it out for myself. But I am embarrassed by my ignorance even though I was trying to be fair and supportive and was trying to validate everyone but I was wrong. I support Black Lives Matter and peaceful protests except for the Coronavirus concern. I hope my story helps someone moving away from ignorance to validation and love over being “right.”
Our children are watching everything and need to be taught kindness and acceptance for all. There has also got to be a major change because most black families experience so much pain and violence in their lifetimes and parents of black children are even more likely to spank/hit and harshly punished because they fear that if they don’t teach strict obedience to authority that it could be their child that is murdered by a bad cop. But this spanking and hardship make the children more likely to act out and get into crime.
And while police lives also matter, it’s important to keep in mind that there are many good cops of all races and they don’t deserve to suffer. On the other hand, white cops need to remember that at the end of the shift, they are like everyone else. But black people still have to deal with the racism and can’t hide from it.
Please be safe and get tested for Covid-19 if you participate in the peaceful protests and quarantine yourself because we can’t make change can’t happen if we’re sick and in the hospital or dead.
May we strive for kindness and love and create this in our children. May peace, love, and light reign in our world!