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From the Principal's Desk-Special Message
From the Principal's Desk-Special Message
Brenda Sargent
Thursday, March 19, 2020

Hilander Families,

In these uncertain times we must look to one another for comfort and fight the urge to look for fault or blame. What we are experiencing right now is unlike anything we have ever witnessed in our lifetime and it may become more unimaginable in the near future. Please know that we are doing all we can to support all families, those most vulnerable and those with less need. I ask that you talk to your children about what is happening and give them age appropriate information; in most cases high school students can handle the full story. When we are left in the dark and uninformed we feel afraid; however on the flip side if we start to overload on less than credible information we also open ourselves up to fear and panic. Dr. Robert Brooks is a leading expert in childhood resiliency and creating hope. I have included his thoughts and recommendations for interacting with your child during this trying time.

The following are a few initial recommendations for parents and other caregivers to consider in interactions to help children become more resilient:

Remain calm and reassuring. We know that if children experience us as very anxious, it intensifies their own worries. This does not mean minimizing or denying that the impact of COVID-19 can be upsetting. One could not do that even if one tried. With schools closing, parents working from home, social distancing increasing, kids are aware that these are changing and challenging times.

Honest reassurance has the power to strengthen resilience. One source of reassurance is to communicate to children that steps are being taken to minimize the spread of the virus. We can explain that one of the reasons schools and other sites have closed for several weeks is to contain the virus. If parents feel comfortable doing so, we can emphasize that while the virus can be dangerous, most people, especially children, who contract the virus will recover.

I am aware that the recommendation to remain calm is easier said than done. I know there are many parents and other adults who are feeling overwhelmed and are finding it difficult to convey a message of comfort. For this reason, it is essential that caregivers identify ways to lessen their own anxiety by learning all they can about the virus, about preventive steps they can take to deal with it, and about activities in which they can engage that are known to be therapeutic during times of stress, such as exercise and meditation.

If we don’t take care of ourselves, it will become a formidable task to take care of our children. Again, I wish to emphasize that this does not mean denying worrisome feelings and thoughts or not validating similar thoughts in our children. Rather, worry must be accompanied by measures that can be initiated to confront the problems associated with the virus. I will add more about this when I describe the concept of “personal control” below.

Continue to reinforce social relationships. A key component of resilience for children is the presence in their lives of what the late psychologist Julius Segal called a “charismatic adult,” defined as an “adult from whom a child gathers strength.” While Segal was referring specifically to an adult-child relationship, I have often stated that even as adults we need charismatic adults in our lives. Throughout the lifespan, we require people who are supportive and encouraging.

I have previously written of the harmful effect of loneliness on our physical and emotional well-being. One suggested prescription for dealing with COVID-19 is “social distancing,” limiting one’s contact with

others. Such a step, while judicious in reducing the spread of the virus, can result in isolation and feelings of aloneness for some people. The challenge is how can we guard against the possibility of “social distancing” transforming into “social isolation.” I believe there are ways to prevent this from occurring.

In our homes, we must make certain we are available to our children, to provide undivided attention to their concerns and their questions. Given the technology that currently exists we can use FaceTime or Skype to stay in touch with friends and family (of course, we can also rely on the seemingly old-fashioned phone call). I think children will welcome the opportunity to keep in touch with friends and family, including grandparents, to make certain they are safe. In these troublesome times, all of us have a responsibility to ensure that no one is feeling alone and unprotected.

Adopt an attitude of personal control. As most of my readers are aware, I have frequently emphasized that a key dimension of resilience is what I label “personal control.” Resilient people focus their time and energy on situations over which they have some influence rather than attempting to change things over which they have little, if any, control.

Translated to the current situation, while we did not have control over the emergence of COVID-19 (this is not to contradict the opinion held by many healthcare and medical experts that we were not as prepared for the outbreak of coronavirus as we might have been), what we have more control over than we may realize is our attitude and response to the virus.

Guided by the tenets of personal control, children, as I noted earlier, will be less anxious if adults identify concrete actions to deal with the virus. One simple action is to wash one’s hands on a regular basis for the recommended time of 20 seconds. There are articles and video clips on-line that demonstrate how to do this effectively. I advised one parent who contacted me that with young children one can make the handwashing into a game by having a timer set for 20 seconds.

It is also important to adhere as much as possible to a regular routine while children are away from school. Set aside a time each day for learning, for physical activities, for games and relaxation, and even for FaceTime playdates. A set routine brings some order to all of the uncertainty that exists.

Parents might also encourage children to learn relaxation or mediation practices. What makes this task easier to accomplish is the availability of apps for children that teach basic meditation skills. I googled “apps for kids for meditation” and many references appeared based on the age of the child.

I should also note that two of the links provided above (NASP; the Erin and David Walsh article) specify the differences in our communications based on whether our children are in preschool, elementary, middle, or high school.

Please take care of one another and check your Skyward email and the Kelso School District app regularly for updates and information. Above all know that we will be here for you and your children when it is time to return to KHS.

With hope for good health and a calm mind,

Christine McDaniel, KHS Principal