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Last week, I wrote a brief blog post about a HOPE-informed approach to the restrictions from COVID-19. Since then, I’ve been thinking about one of the building blocks of HOPE: engagement. As children grow and develop, engaging with the larger community around them provides a sense of “mattering” — a sense that their participation in the community really does matter. The emergency conditions now in effect provide numerous opportunities to children and teens to pitch in. Here are a few ideas — please click on this post and use the comments section or go to our “Ask the Community” query on ACEs Connection to add your own.

  1. Consider all the information — we are drowning in information, some authoritative, some rumors, and some false. Expect the next week or two to be especially challenging. Let your children know that before we see the effects of these new public health measures, we will hear of many new cases. This is not surprising: the rise in cases will result from increased testing, and from those who were exposed before the restrictions becoming sick. Talk with your older children and teenagers about what they read and hear. Help give them the tools to separate fact from fiction or overblown worries.
  2. Combating social isolation — children can help others, including older adults, stay connected. There are many ways younger children can engage with their grandparents and other adult relatives who are now home alone. Art projects, baking cookies, and sending messages can add real warmth and connection that really matter to others.
  3. Providing concrete support — many people shouldn’t or can’t leave their homes to get food or other needed supplies. Some must isolate because they are especially vulnerable, and others do so because they have kids or others at home who can’t be left alone. Neighbors everywhere are organizing to deliver essentials without personal contact. Older children and teens may be able to volunteer, and even younger children can safely accompany their parents to help out
  4. Encouraging creative connections — children and teens will have their own ideas about how to connect with others. Are kids organizing virtual classrooms? Are there neighborhood outdoor sings where people (six feet apart) nevertheless sing together?

Engaging with our friends and families in this time has been challenging for all of us. Please share your ideas for yourselves — and to help our children. With luck, this traumatic time for the world will also create opportunities for children to be usefully engaged and learn how much they matter.

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