(Dover, Ohio) – There’s no denying the current social climate is likely to have a negative effect on our children, so what can we do?
Mentor Monday is brought to you by Big Brothers Big Sisters of East Central Ohio.
Officials with Big Brothers Big Sisters have acknowledged that while their work is important all the time, it has become even more urgent in the past several months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of the Littles within the organization and other children in the community are already facing adversity when all is “normal” in the world. Big Brothers Big Sisters’ mentoring relationships protect against harmful effects of adverse childhood experiences, which officials have noted an increase in throughout this global pandemic.
“We want our children to know we care about them; therefore, our staff has personally delivered a care package to each child in our program. We’ve been in touch with each family we serve to ensure needs are being met and assistance and resources are being provided where they are needed,” explained Brittany Carman Mentoring Specialist with BBBS.
Social isolation can both increase the likelihood of adverse childhood experiences such as exposure to domestic violence, abuse, and neglect and compound the effects of trauma and adverse childhood experiences, Carman added.
BBBS has two colored books we have been providing to children as resources to help them cope with stress, fear, and anxiety.
“We, here at Big Brothers Big Sisters, are doing all we can to combat the negative effects of this virus,” Carman added. “We know children and families are vulnerable during this time and are facing increased anxiety, stress, and fear. More than ever, we hope to be a vital resource for our community.”
Many children thrive when they have a structure, and this global pandemic has uprooted the routine of countless families. Now, mentoring is more important as it gives children a consistent, dependable figure to spend time with, whether in-person or virtually, officials added. Relationships are more valuable than ever. “We hope that these mentoring relationships with caring, trusted adults will assist in reversing the traumatic effects this pandemic may have on children,” said Carman.
BBBS is continuing to innovate and adapt their service delivery to ensure kids stay connected to their mentors. BBBS team members are encouraging this by providing opportunities for virtual mentoring. This way, children can still talk to their mentors, and Bigs can check-in with their Littles to support them through this difficult time. BBBS works to keep children engaged during social isolation by providing them with not only ways to connect with their Bigs, but also with resources for activities that can be done virtually. This link provides a list of the educational and recreational resources compiled by our staff – https://docs.google.com/document/d/19JG6bGJKB1AGCIq-XNJPXZ3dbf6S0GfBPbSrGYwpFJM/edit?usp=sharing
Due to the increase in virtual interactions, BBBS has also been very focused on internet safety. Below are resources for discussing internet safety with children:
The BBBS mentoring specialists provide training to Bigs on how to discuss COVID-19 with their Littles, so that each child feels reassured and supported.
Tips for talking with children:
- Remain Calm. Children take cues from the adults around them. Children are going to learn how to cope with situations that cause anxiety and fear by watching their parents and their Bigs. If we can assess the situation calmly and confidently, then it less likely to induce panic.
- Share how you feel and ask your Little how he/she feels about the situation – Make yourself available for a one-on-one conversation with your Little and listen to his/her feelings. Let them know, “it is okay for you to feel that way.” This can help them become comfortable talking about the things that bother them, and through conversation, Bigs can provide coping strategies and share their own experiences to reassure their Littles.
- Provide truthful, factual information. Children be provided with misinformation through the internet and other types of media. This misinformation can be the root cause of fear and anxiety. Talk with your Little about the facts of the virus to help them better understand the situation.
- Encourage good hygiene practices – Children may be reassured by knowing they can take simple, everyday actions to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Remind children to wash their hands frequently and use hand sanitizer. Encourage them to wear a mask at appropriate times and social distance when possible. Bigs can talk with their Littles about the symptoms of the virus and talk to them about staying home when having any of these symptoms.
- SHOW CHILDREN, THEY CAN STILL STAY HOME AND HAVE FUN! We are all social beings, and our children, especially, require socialization. This has been difficult to manage when social distancing is recommended to stop the spread of COVID-19. We are trying to protect our children by keeping them home, but we also know they miss their friends. This is where our Bigs can help! Some activities our matches have done together virtually include:
- Bought the same foods and cooked a meal together over a virtual platform
- Participated in a scavenger hunt
- Played match bingo where they had to do completely different tasks and take pictures of themselves – such as “crazy dress-up”
- Became pen pals and wrote letters back and forth
- Made unique art for one another with a contact-less exchange
- Played video games with each other