The weekly conversations between programs continued this week and focused on a reopening challenge that will impact virtually everyone on some level: maintaining awareness around our social and emotional health. There are some more general themes and then some specific resources that I’ll highlight here.
The themes came from Sara Forward, LICSW of the Vermont Child Welfare Training Partnership. They include:
- Keep it Normal: Familiar interactions and expectations help everyone relax.
- Smile, even though you are wearing a mask. It’s going to make you and them feel better.
- Remind kids that they are here to learn and have fun.
- Chit-chat with parents as usual and praise efforts children are making to stay safe. I.e., ‘Kate did a great job giving friends space during our woods hike today. She is getting so good at helping keep everyone safe.’
- Keep the communication lines open: Regardless of work and school schedules, everyone is getting used to new routines and rituals this fall. Pick-ups and other times to connect will look different and may not allow parents to feel as connected to afterschool staff. We will need to be creative in in-person and virtual interactions to hear what’s happening for the families in your program
- Call or email parents to check in about how things are going. Consider surveying parents about how the new afterschool is feeling and ask if they have ideas for improving logistics.
- In-person, exaggerate positive body language. With a mask on, a big friendly wave goodbye or hello, a six-foot away air hug, and a happy dance to celebrate a victory become more meaningful.
- Ask parents how they are doing and consider offering “office hours” once a week when parents can sign up for a time to chat with you about how things are going for their child and any safety or COVID-related concerns they might have.
- Learn about safety protocols together: Knowing how to stay safe and being “in the know” about afterschool procedures will put kids and parents at ease. Consider this example of a “What to expect at camp” from Very Merry Theater.
- Make a video with your team to demonstrate new safety expectations
- Make a video with the school nurse demonstrating proper handwashing
- Hang posters with reminders of new protocols and offer a home-version poster with tips for staying safe at home.
There are also some specific resources I’d like to highlight. The first of which comes from “Okay, You’ve Got This” and is a good collection of short-form resources for both young people and caregivers/other adults. It gives some very simple, yet effective pointers for how to best manage the stresses that will come up during the return to schooling this fall.
The next resource comes from the Afterschool Alliance and is called: “Mitigating ongoing stress of a pandemic: A toolkit for caregivers.” It offers caregivers free, easy-to-follow, research-based strategies to buffer the impact of stress caused by our new stay-at-home reality due to the pandemic. There are many practical tips in there to help support wellness during the transitions that will be associated with the return to school.
The last resource to highlight came from a participant on the call, Erica Baker of the REACH Afterschool and Summer Program. It is a “Back-to-School Free Printable Care Package” put out by “Big Life Journal”. It has both frameworks and activities that can provide structure and support for young people. The content is accessible and engaging.
Another round table discussion will happen again next Tuesday 8/25 at 1:00. To register, please visit THIS LINK.