Helping Children—And Ourselves—Through Times of Uncertainty

By Lisa Self

Children need consistency in their lives. They like to know what to expect. This is one of the reasons children can watch the same movie over and over again. (Enter eye-roll emoji from adult.) No surprises, the ending is always the same.

Children like structure, even a schedule, and want to be able to count on the adults in their lives to lead and follow that structure. That doesn’t mean that children don’t like a surprise visit to the sno-cone stand, but they like to know when things are going to happen. They like warnings before things are going to change. Have you ever told a child to immediately clean up his Lego creation with no warning? Oof! Not pretty.

Thinking back to Psychology 101, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (1943) shows that when children (and adults) feel unsafewhen they need security, protection, and stabilitythey have trouble reaching the higher levels of self-fulfillment needs, like using critical thinking skills or even being able to see another person’s point of view. Uncertainty and stress will impact the ability to learn.

What can we do to help?

Listen: Children might want to talk about how they are feeling. Listen. Don’t minimize their fears. Don’t just wait for them to stop talking so you can give them your ounce of wisdom. Just listen. Repeat back what you heard from them.

Alexa says, “I’m worried that I’ll never get to see my friends again.”

Adult: “It is sad when you don’t get to see your friends at school like you used to.”

Hugo says, “Is my family going to get sick and die?”

Adult: “It sounds like you are scared for your family.”

Peopleall people, young and oldwant to be heard. They want to know that their feelings are understood and respected.

Plan: Make a plan for how your week will go. Let those around you contribute to the plan. The plan doesn’t have to be extremely detailed, but it should have structure. Talk about the plan so everyone affected by it knows what to expect. Talk about the plan through the week, follow a routine, and include reminders and time notices to upcoming transitions.

S.E.E.E. Well: That is . . .

Sleep well!
Eat well!
Exercise well!
Enjoy!

Children need adequate hours of sleep—and so do adults! Anyone who has ever pulled an all-nighter in college learns that sleep is needed for effective cognitive function, which may include solving a complex problem—or just not putting your eyeglasses in the refrigerator. It’s the same thing for children, except they need even more sleep than adults. Whether it’s a school night, weekend, or holiday, they need the same amount of sleep.

Encourage and model healthy eating! Children do not need sugary treats to reward them for behaviors or make them “feel” better. Volumes of research show that both are unhealthy practices for children. Use activities that involve trying new fruits and vegetables! Our lab school does a “taste test” every month. Our kitchen manager, Ms. Marcie, offers a food item that the children might not have tried before. They take a poll on whether we should incorporate this into an upcoming menu. It may not make the cut, but it’s always a fun food activity that introduces a new healthy flavor to their palate.

Model exercise and movement for children! During an explanation of her upcoming final unit, one of my college students said, “To keep children calm, we have to keep them moving.” That’s some of the wisest advice for guiding children I’ve ever heard.

How do we manage a group of small children? Keep them moving. And we need to move with them; whether in person or through virtual learning, we can model that movement and learn through movement with games, acting out a story and even with your best made-up song with large motor movement! (Instead of the “Itsy-Bitsy Spider” with fingers, how about the “Biggly-Wiggly Spider” using whole arms?) It’s good for them and good for us.

Enjoy! In the midst of the unknown, don’t forget to take time to unwind, connect with others, and do something you love every day (other than your job!)—and allow children to do the same. Listen to what they want to do and try to say “Yes!” every chance you get!

We can get through stress and anxiety, learn from it, and be healthier people on the other side. Then, we can teach children how to do that as well!

Resources

How to Have Better Conversations With Your Children

10 Reasons A Daily Routine is Important for Your Child (and How to Set One)

Children and Sleep

Kids’ Healthy Eating Plate

How much physical activity do children need?

Getting Children & Teens Outside While Physical Distancing for COVID-19

Mrs. Self is an Assistant Professor and the Program Coordinator of Child Development at Tarrant County College at the Northeast Campus in Hurst, Texas. She has been teaching children and adults since 1994.

References

Maslow, A. H. (1943). A theory of human motivationPsychological Review, 50(4), 370–396.

Empathy and Flexibility in the COVID Era

By Dorota Silber-Furman and Andrea Arce-Trigatti
SUMMER 2021

We cancelled classes last Tuesday and Wednesday to serve and volunteer. More than 1,000 students, faculty, and staff joined the 2,500 plus volunteers over those two days and since to help in any way possible. (Office of the President, 2020, par. 4).

Navigating the spring 2020 semester was challenging. Not only was the unprecedented situation of the COVID-19 pandemic on the forefront of our professional and private lives, but our community faced tremendous devastation from a Category 4 tornado just weeks before. It was a time of heightened stress, trauma, and grief for not only our students and their families, but also for faculty and staff at our university.

As faculty in the College of Education, our primary work responsibility is to prepare preservice and in-service teachers. During the spring 2020 semester, many of our students were working with their own students at the Pre-K to 12 level and facing the same challenges of the online teaching transition that we were facing at the postsecondary level, while also processing new experiences of stress, trauma, and grief.

In our shared struggles, instructors and learners had to develop mutual empathy and flexibility to successfully navigate the new reality of our academic worlds. Below, we reflect on a few of these cases and how strategies of empathy and flexibility supported student learning as well as facilitated effective teaching during difficult times. 

Surviving the Storm

Eighteen fatalities, 88 injured, over 500 buildings damaged, over 100 families lost homes. Five families lost precious children and some children lost both parents. The numbers are staggering. The stories of survival are moving; the stories of loss are heartbreaking. The numbers are staggering. The stories of survival are moving; the stories of loss are heartbreaking (Office of the President, 2020, par. 1).

The effects of the storm were evident in the trauma, stress, and grief experienced by our students and their students in the aftermath. Many of them not only lost belongings or access to technology and electricity, but also lost a loved one or had someone close suffer an incredible loss. This feeling of emotional chaos led to decreased engagement and motivation, which increased the need to open venues of communication to continue learning.

Surviving COVID-19

On Monday, we all begin teaching and learning online together (Official University Correspondence, 2020, par. 1).

After the storm, the COVID-19 pandemic hit our community, requiring a massive transition to online learning in the Pre-K to 16 grades. It’s safe to say our students’ level of stress, trauma, and grief were exacerbated; they lost contact with one another and the on-campus support that they relied on after the tornado.

Many were also still without access to electricity and Internet, which heightened the anxiety associated with not only online learning, but also that of their children via homeschooling. Meanwhile, the virus became a reality as it began to infect our local population, students, and their loved ones.

Surviving Teaching and Learning

Students, let me reassure you that some things haven’t changed. Your faculty members are ready to help you through the challenges. They will deliver the quality education you expect. Plus, they stand ready with patience and understanding (Official University Correspondence, March 28, 2020, par. 2).

In the midst of these tragedies, it is important to remember that we are only human. Through empathy and flexibility, we can better serve students’ needs while still attending to our families and communities.

Empathy: Not everyone is an online learner, and not everyone has the bandwidth to be attentive (let alone awake) in the few hours they can dedicate to schoolwork while juggling five other jobs. Acknowledging this reality, it was OK to let the beginning of courses become pseudo group therapy sessions. It was OK to have family members come in and take notes in an online session for a relative still without electricity. It was OK to extend deadlines and work with our students’ proposed schedules.

Flexibility: For our teaching, this translated to a departure from the norm and a large overhaul and re-adjustment of several items, including homework, deadlines, project formats, course content, and collaborative expectations. Critical questions were asked: What topics rise to the surface? What lessons will resonate with our students? How can we give them tools that have immediate benefits?

Concluding Thoughts

Take care of each other and finish strong (Official University Correspondence, March 28, 2020, par. 5).

At times our students disengaged (due to lack of electricity, technology, or motivation) but we did not give up on them. Through multiple modes of contact, community “grapevines,” and rallying our College’s resources, we tried to create an avenue for success that worked for them and provided a space to cater to an ever-changing reality. With all of our actions, at the forefront was the mantra that in teaching, there is care; and where there is care, there can be learning.

Dr. Silber-Furman is a Lecturer in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at Tennessee Technological University (TTU). She currently teaches courses related to multicultural education, culturally relevant practices, and ESOL. Her research interests are connected to literacy, international education, culturally relevant practice, multicultural education, ELLs, and critical theory. She was the co-advisor of the Eta Nu Chapter of Kappa Delta Pi at TTU.

Dr. Arce-Trigatti is the Director of Institutional Assessment and Accreditation for the Office of Institutional Effectiveness at Tallahassee Community College. Her research interests are interdisciplinary and connected to cultural studies, social justice in education, educational policy, innovation-driven learning, and engineering education. She was the co-advisor of the Eta Nu Chapter of Kappa Delta Pi at TTU.

Celebrate Family & Consumer Sciences Day by “Dining In!”

AAFCS_Day_Logo_2015ouKappa Delta Pi is a proud partner of the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (AAFCS), and we are celebrating Family & Consumer Sciences Day on December 3, 2015, alongside more than 100,000 other individuals, families, and organizations!

The event, themed “Dining In” for Healthy Families, was an ASAE Power of (A) 2015 Silver Award Winner. The chosen date honors AAFCS Founder Ellen Swallow Richards, the first female MIT graduate.

Carolyn W. Jackson, CFCS, AAFCS CEO, says “Family & Consumer Sciences Day calls attention to something simple families can do to be physically, mentally, and financially healthier—prepare and eat a nutritious meal together. We are proud to lead this important initiative.”

AAFCS and family and consumer science professionals have spent the past weeks educating students, families, government agencies, businesses, and other organizations on nutrition, healthy food preparation, and food safety with an overall focus on well-being, resources, and relationships.

kimhfsFamilies who eat a healthy meal, especially those who prepare the meal together, are shown to have stronger family communication and family traditions. Children develop life skills needed to live a healthier lifestyle, have a higher consumption of fruits and vegetables, and perform better schools.

The obesity epidemic is fueled by unhealthy eating patterns and a lack of food preparation knowledge. AAFCS uses Family & Consumer Sciences Day to highlight the benefits of healthful eating as a family.

Need meal ideas, motivation to eat healthy, or want to be part of the dining in movement? The official Family & Consumer Sciences Day website has all of the resources you need to participate in the day.

Help AAFCS meet their goal of 200,000 pledges! To join KDP in participating, sign the pledge and commit to preparing and eating one healthy meal with your family or friends; then share your commitment or a photo of your healthy mean with #FCSday and #healthyfamselfie on Facebook or Twitter.