How to Take Away Something Positive from the COVID Crisis

How to Take Away Something Positive from the COVID Crisis

How to Take Away Something Positive from the COVID Crisis

By Kristin Barker

The year 2020 has been difficult for everyone. It has caused organizations and businesses to pivot from their planned strategies and shift quickly to identify new ones. It has forced individuals to find new career paths and create new support structures. It’s kept us from our families and isolated us from the communities we are used to counting on. In short, it has been one tough year.

It has been the most difficult year I have seen over my lifetime. But I will say it has also been inspiring. I have been inspired by the ability of our community and its leaders to come together. Leadership in Columbus has been able to connect in new and sometimes surprising ways to support and meet continually changing needs. 

Betsy Covington at the Community Foundation and Ben Moser at United Way acted very early in the year to coordinate COVID Response calls to keep Columbus connected, positive, and focused throughout much of this crisis year. Their efforts and the efforts of others to join hands and find out-of-the-box solutions in the moment has been very encouraging.

While seeing these efforts gives hope to myself and (I’m sure) to others, our Hiring Well, Doing Good (HWDG) partners also know there will be many additional challenges to address and emerging issues to tackle in the future. We began to talk about the shifts that were happening with our own efforts in Columbus. We heard about the new practices that our business and nonprofit partners were having to adopt and the heightened needs that continue to arise among the populations we serve. 

Our subcommittees began to ask, “What can we learn from our ability to pivot in 2020 that will allow us to react more effectively and responsively in 2021?” This question led us to develop a series of events focused on The Changing COVID Workforce

Our first event in this series will be held on January 21, 2021. This event will address Economic Forces During a Pandemic: How COVID is Shaping the Labor Market. During this event we examine the labor-supply gaps that exist and look at business policies and practices that impact workforce participation. This discussion will set the stage for later events and will consider the need for possible shifts in training and hiring practices. 

Our second event in the series will be on March 24 and will examine how we leverage our community assets to mitigate the impact of COVID. Betsy Covington and Ben Moser are going to speak during this event and help us think through what our community did really well in 2020. We will discuss how we can leverage what we have learned to navigate 2021 and to improve our community in the future. The final event on May 19 will focus on maintaining the strength of our workforce.

All three of these discussions will help us prepare to successfully repair our local economy in light of the COVID-related adjustments we have been forced to make along the way. We need to be sure that businesses (large and small) can prosper while keeping all people in our community safe and avoiding as much collateral damage from this virus as possible. 

There are also some existing issues that COVID has shined a light on. In comparison to other areas of the country, Columbus has very low average wages. This has created a situation locally where national stimulus efforts may harm our local economy disproportionately. In some cases, businesses have shared that their challenges in hiring additional labor have hamstrung their efforts to produce at scale or accept additional contracts. In other cases, employers have had to scale down production due to workforce restrictions. These situations open up an essential conversation about both average and living wages in Columbus, because it’s important for everyone to earn enough to support their families.

Ultimately, I see a heart at work in our community that is something I don’t believe you can find everywhere. There is a genuine and pervasive desire to work together for the common good. This is something special about Columbus, and I believe the Changing COVID Workforce event series will allow us to take greater advantage of our outstanding community spirit.

 

Vulnerable kids have been hardest hit by COVID-19 learning losses. We need to get educational options to their families

Vulnerable kids have been hardest hit by COVID-19 learning losses. We need to get educational options to their families

Vulnerable kids have been hardest hit by COVID-19 learning losses. We need to get educational options to their families

By David Bass

There has been much focus—and rightly so—on the nearly 370,000 victims of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S., plus the millions more who have been touched by this terrible disease in some way

What hasn’t gotten as much attention are the unseen victims of the pandemic: The tens of millions of low-income, vulnerable students who have experienced devastating learning losses due to school closures and lack of educational options.

Highlighting this disturbing trend, McKinsey & Company recently put out an assessment of student learning outcomes during COVID-19 school closures. The results are bleak: Students of color are about three to five months behind in learning, while white students are one to three months behind.

 

Worsening educational inequities 

The sad reality is that virtual learning tends to favor wealthier, whiter families who have access to the types of resources needed to make this environment successful. Families of means have the resources to purchase whatever educational resources they deem necessary—from private-school tuition to individual tutors to new equipment to having one parent cut back their work hours in order to serve as a learning facilitator at home. 

 Low-income families don’t have these options. Many of them lack access to even basic reliable Internet or a desktop or laptop computer, not to mention a quiet place to learn and active parental involvement.

 

More options needed right now

A common refrain here at the Georgia Center for Opportunity when it comes to education is this: We can’t afford to wait another date to bring real options to Georgia students. The COVID-19 pandemic has only added to the urgency.

2020 has come and gone, and sadly it is too late to stem the tide of learning losses for our most vulnerable populations. But we can do new things in 2021 to help struggling students.

It begins by providing access to the widest range of educational options possible—to give immediate access to these options for all families regardless of income, zip code, or race. That option might look like a locally zoned public school, a charter school, a private school, or a home school. 

Some parents feel most comfortable keeping their children home in an exclusively virtual learning environment. Others want their kids back in school full-time. The need is for options, not top-down declarations or one-size-fits-all approaches. This means that schools must reopen for families who feel comfortable returning their children to in-classroom instruction.

If our goal is truly to achieve educational equity regardless of income or neighborhood, then expanded options are essential, now more than ever.

 

Investment’s key to Ga.’s economic mobility | AJC

Investment’s key to Ga.’s economic mobility | AJC

Investment’s key to Ga.’s economic mobility | AJC

Over the last decade, Georgia has experienced remarkable progress in developing our transportation and infrastructure network. We stabilized our roads and bridges in 2015 with HB170, regional transit systems in 2018, and invested over $300 million in state money in the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project. Since 2012, over 70 communities have passed local option sales taxes for infrastructure…

And Georgia still has economic challenges. The Georgia Center for Opportunity recently noted that there are 250,000 working-age men not working or looking for work in Georgia. By 2027, 87 Georgia counties will have lost jobs and, by 2030, 74 counties will see population loss.

 
Managing Stress | HEALTHY @ HOME

Managing Stress | HEALTHY @ HOME

Managing Stress | HEALTHY @ HOME

As if the holidays weren’t enough, we’re now in the midst of another surge in the Coronavirus pandemic. 2020 has been stressful. Join licensed professional counselor, Janae Combs, as she gives us some practical advice and tips for managing stress in a healthy way.

To learn more about the Healthy @ Home series and see additional videos click here

We are driven by a belief – supported by experience and research- that people from all walks of life are more likely to flourish if they have an intact, healthy family and strong relationships.

 

To learn more about how the Healthy Families Initiative is active in the community, click here

Acceptance of the New Normal | HEALTHY @ HOME

Acceptance of the New Normal | HEALTHY @ HOME

Acceptance of the New Normal | HEALTHY @ HOME

As we enter the holiday season it’s important to recognize the changes that have taken place in 2020, and are shaping the way families are gathering for celebrations.  

Laura Cochling of Changing Perceptions Therapy walks us through healthy ways to accept our new normal. 

To learn more about the Healthy @ Home series and see additional videos click here

We are driven by a belief – supported by experience and research- that people from all walks of life are more likely to flourish if they have an intact, healthy family and strong relationships.

 

To learn more about how the Healthy Families Initiative is active in the community, click here

Helping Children Adjust to Holidays During the Pandemic

Helping Children Adjust to Holidays During the Pandemic

Helping Children Adjust to Holidays During the Pandemic

 

 

 

By Guest Blogger Jen Johnson 

 

 

 

We have a unique opportunity to introduce this social skill this year due to the financial impacts of the pandemic.

 

Have you ever shown up to a party or wedding and felt under or over dressed? Have you turned up at a friend’s house for game night and realized your partner forgot to tell you it was potluck and you’re empty-handed? What about when you’ve gone to a restaurant and realized after arriving that there’s a dress code or that you need to tip and you didn’t bring cash? Think about a time where you’ve been embarrassed or frustrated because you didn’t meet an expectation you didn’t know about beforehand? 

What happened?

How did it feel?

What would you have preferred happened?

All of these experiences of discomfort could have been avoided if you had known the expectations in advance, right?

Setting expectations is an integral part of helping children meet expectations and manage their feelings.

This year families will be experiencing holidays in different ways due to the pandemic. Many families will not be seeing grandparents or extended family due to the risk of exposure to Covid-19. Events that have often anchored the holidays in the minds of children may be cancelled (e.g., Santa at the mall, holiday parties, community gatherings, religious services, parades). 

Children have experienced changes in major routines since the beginning of 2020. Many of these changes have happened so quickly that children did not have the chance to emotionally adjust. For example, schools closed quite suddenly in the Spring and decisions about virtual/hybrid/face to face learning have been made by the month and sometimes down to the week in some school districts. 

Fortunately, the holidays don’t have to be experienced that way. We, as caregivers, are in charge of our holiday plans. They don’t depend on the government, the school district, or any organization. We can decide now what the holidays will look like and begin setting expectations with children in advance.

I want to discuss two different aspects of setting expectations: topics that may need to be considered and discussed, and language you can use to communicate with children. 

These are some areas you may need to consider setting expectations:

Family Gatherings

Will you attend? Will you wear masks? Will there be social distancing? Will certain family members not be in attendance due to their decisions about their health? Children need to know in advance what to expect at family gatherings this holiday season. Don’t wait until you’re on the way to the gathering in the car to set expectations. Start talking about it now! Bring it up several times before the actual holiday arrives and allow children to share their thoughts and feelings. It might sound something like this:

“I want to talk to you about Thanksgiving this year. Usually we go to Grandma’s house and all your aunts and uncles and cousins come and we eat and play games. Do you remember when we did that last year?” Asking if they remember is important depending on the age. If they don’t remember, then the change this year may not be a big deal to them. If they do, it may be a bit more challenging. “This year is going to be  different, kind of like how school is different right now.” (Insert your plans and expectations. I’ll share my family plans.) This year we are all going to make food at our own houses and then we are going to Zoom with all of our aunts and uncles and cousins. We are still going to play games, except we will be online together instead of in person. I’m feeling sad we won’t see our family, but I’m excited about the new games.” (You’ve just modeled how to share emotions.) “What feelings are you having about this?” (wait) “What questions do you have?” (Use this instead of “Do you have questions?”)

Traditional Holiday Events

What are the events your family attends every year during the holidays? My family loves to go to the Fantasy of Lights in my hometown of Wichita Falls, Texas. We gather at Grandma’s house for dinner so she feels cozy and included since Grandpa passed a few years ago. Christmas Eve services are almost always on the books, and since my son was born we’ve started celebrating Christmas morning at my parents’ house. To kick off the holiday season, we almost always go to the Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s holiday show and have a family cookie baking night.

It is quite likely that none of these events will happen this year.

Grandma is elderly. Mom is a survivor of lung cancer and a lobectomy. My son is considered high risk, so crowding into a church building isn’t a risk we are willing to take. The pandemic has drastically changed how we will engage in holiday events this year. 

Just as you talked about family gatherings and how those will look different, talk about how events surrounding the holiday will look different this year. Think of ways you can substitute those events with safe ones. For example, we plan to stream a musical holiday show instead of going in person. We might even get all dressed up! We will likely have our own cookie baking night at home and gather virtually with Grandma and our parents. If my son was older, the conversation might sound like this:

“I want to talk to you about our (insert holiday) traditions. You might have to explain that “traditions are things we do every year around the holidays” and give an example. What (insert holiday) traditions can you think of that you’re looking forward to this year? Allow your child time to talk about what they’re looking forward to. Focus on the events they are excited about and determine whether those are safe events. If they aren’t you might say something like, “I really like to go to the music show too. This year instead of going to Dallas for the show, we’re going to watch it at home on TV. I’m feeling disappointed that we won’t get to see Santa come out at the Christmas show, but I’m excited that we can still watch on TV because we can have snacks while we watch!” You’ve just modeled how to share emotions. “What feelings are you having about this?” (wait) What questions do you have?” (Use this instead of “Do you have questions?”) 

Gifts

The financial impacts of the pandemic have been significant for many families. Your family may have traditions related to gift-giving that may need to look different this year. And that’s okay! It’s important to prepare children for this difference. I am NOT saying we need to explain financial difficulties to children. Finances are an adult issue, and children should feel as safe and secure as possible. However, it is possible to set expectations around gift-giving without referencing finances.

As caregivers, we have two options: Pretend like everything is going to happen as normal and then manage the disappointment and hurt feelings on that special holiday.

or (and preferably)

Tell children in advance that gift-giving is going to be different this year so we can get all those thoughts and feelings processed before the holiday. It doesn’t mean there won’t be thoughts and feelings on the holiday, but they will most likely be less intense if there has been regular discussion and processing prior to the holiday. There is no benefit to not telling a child they won’t be getting a pony or the newest gaming system. The benefit of communicating the truth is that it helps them adjust their expectations so they are better able to enjoy the gift they DO receive. It might sound like this:

“I saw that you wrote your gift wish list. I want to look at it together and talk about what’s on it. Your wish list looks so fun. I see that you put ______ on your list. I am not (or Santa is not) going to be able to get that gift for you this year. But can you think of something fun we could do? Maybe we could have a special chocolate chip pancake breakfast and watch Christmas movies? (*Insert things you could do together.) How are you feeling about that? What questions do you have?”

*Go hiking or biking. Do a craft with supplies from your local dollar store. Drive around at night with closed mugs of hot chocolate and do a scavenger hunt of different yard decorations. 

A few days later, circle back to the discussion again and take the opportunity to teach your child how to receive a gift that isn’t exactly what they wanted.

We’ve all had the experience of opening up a gift to discover we’ve received something we just don’t care for. As adults, we don’t throw tantrums or point out that we don’t like it because we’ve learned social skills related to this experience. Our children can learn this skill one of three ways.

1) They observe someone else, usually another child, express they don’t like something, observe the negative reactions of the adults, and promise themselves they’ll never do that.

2) They themselves express that they don’t like something, experience the negative shaming reaction of adults, and promise themselves they’ll never do that again.

or (and preferably)

3) They are pre-taught to show appreciation for every gift and the consequences of what happens when you don’t (i.e. people get their feelings hurt and it makes them sad). Discussion and role plays that allow children to practice are helpful when teaching this skill. When they are pre-taught the skill, they are more likely to meet expectations because you’ve set them up in advance. This doesn’t mean they won’t feel disappointed or sad or even  that they will master the skill this holiday, but we have a unique opportunity to introduce this social skill this year due to the financial impacts of the pandemic.

We have a unique opportunity to introduce this social skill this year due to the financial impacts of the pandemic.

Holidays this year are certainly going to be different. It is 100% okay to grieve the loss of the connections and fun that will be missed, and we should walk with children through those experiences and emotions. As caregivers, we have the opportunity to model how to process the emotions and mold the experience our children have during the holidays this year.

This post can be found in its original form here.

Jen Johnson  is the founder of The Child Safety Collaborative and a PhD Candidate in the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of North Texas. Jen worked in public education for almost a decade before moving into the private sector to address child abuse and maltreatment through The Child Safety Collaborative. Her research is focused around accommodating safety curriculums for children with disabilities.

 

 

STRONGER FAMILIES CREATE THRIVING COMMUNITIES

 

During this time of uncertainty, we know the potential for anxiety and stress in homes is high. That’s why we are putting together resources to help families come together during this time of crisis and adapt to the rapidly changing pandemic environment.

 To learn more about the Healthy Families Initiative at GCO click here

A family sitting on the floor together