How to prepare for extended school closings—and not lose your mind

There is no getting around the fact that this is an extremely stressful time for all of us. There are concerns for our health, of course. But it's not just that.

The ripple effect of the Coronavirus could be vast – impacting our daily life in profound ways over the coming weeks and months.

If you're the parent of a school-aged child, you've almost certainly become aware that the chance of your child's school closing for an extended amount of time is very real. Quite possibly your local school has already been shut down (I just got a call that our schools close tomorrow).


Liz Faria

My background as a social worker with children and families has given me some thoughts on how to best prepare for a situation like this (although the mom in me feels the stress like everyone else!).

For a lot of us, the thought of an indeterminate amount of time at home with our kids – perhaps unable to socialize much with others, and while many of us will be trying to work remotely – well, it's daunting to say the least.

These next few days are a good time to begin to wrap our brains around this likely scenario, and to come up with some strategies to cope with the stresses this will bring.

Here are my thoughts for making it through this quarantine with your kids.

KIDS THRIVE ON ROUTINE AND PREDICTABILITY

Children need routine and predictability in order to feel safe. This is especially important during a time of crisis.

It's one thing to be off of your routine for a few days over the holidays. It's quite another to be off of your routine for an unknown amount of time, without any of the familiar signposts to anchor you (which are readily available during the holidays, and completely absent in our current scenario).

So, this is very important: Create order, with some flexibility, in your days as soon as possible.

WHAT THIS LOOKS LIKE:

Set up a schedule that involves regular times for bathing, eating, school-work/learning activities, and socializing.

Maintain a set time for going to sleep, and the same bedtime routine your kids are used to.

This is not the time to let it become the Wild West at your house. In doing so, you will be taking away the structure and normalcy that will keep your child feeling safe.

There is room for some flexibility – you do not need to be running a military operation from your family room. But a general structure and flow to the day that the kids can expect will help you greatly here.

FOCUS ON SCHOOL WORK IN REASONABLE INCREMENTS

Depending on your child's age, they may have some academics they're expected to keep up with at home. My best suggestion here is to establish a certain time of day (not the whole day!) and a certain place for study at your house. A few hours AT MOST should be sufficient.

If your school hasn't sent home any materials, you will be able to find some great learning materials online. Sheppard Software and Khan Academy are examples of excellent online resources for kids.

Reading with your child, doing hands-on projects, even baking and playing board games can be educational. Again this depends on your child's age. Hopefully we will all be getting a bit of direction from our local teachers, if this quarantine goes on for any length of time.

LIMIT YOUR CHILD'S ANXIETY BY MANAGING YOUR OWN

This is a highly uncertain time on a massive scale. While kids will have varying levels of awareness about the scope of concern over the Coronavirus, they will for sure be picking up on our anxieties.

Talk to your kids about what is going on, without being overly dramatic. Fortunately, we can honestly tell our kids that most children are not becoming very sick from this virus, and that they should be OK.

You can explain to them why we are practicing "social distancing" and use this as a teachable moment in prevention. There is no need to unduly scare our kids, but they should have a general idea of what's going on.

If you and another adult are going to discuss the Coronavirus, be mindful of your child's age and emotional ability to process the conversation they may be privy to. Kids hear EVERYTHING. Except when you want them to listen, at which time they hear nothing.

BUILD IN TIME TO LET OFF STEAM

Let's be honest here, this is going to be stressful. You and your kids are going to be on top of each other, maybe for awhile. Nobody is used to this!

So find ways to let out steam – a loud dance party, a quick run around the block with your kids, a communal yell – whatever! Let. It. Out.

CUT YOUR KIDS SOME SLACK

This isn't the time to be on top of every annoying behavior. Give your kids some grace.

They will need it, and also it's been shown that sometimes the best way to deal with an irritating behavior from a kid is to simply look the other way. Not for the really egregious stuff, but for the small stuff.

Try to ignore what you can ignore, and save your interventions for when you really need them (which, let's be honest, we're gonna need them).

DON'T BE ON TOP OF YOUR KIDS ALL DAY

You will need space from them and they'll need it from you. If you can create pockets of the day for alone time, or quiet / independent time, please do.

TRY TO GET OUTSIDE

Liz Faria

If at all possible, find time during the day to get outside; in your yard, for walks, maybe on a trail.

This is not a natural disaster or war – we're just trying to create social distancing here.

So get some fresh air when you can.

IF YOU'RE WORKING FROM HOME, RELAX YOUR STANDARDS

We all know it is REALLY HARD to work from home when you have the kids with you. It can feel nearly impossible. But a lot of us will be working from home, and if this is a lengthy quarantine situation we have to find ways to make this work. So do what you need to do, here.

You may need to allow more screen time than usual. You may need to accept that the house won't be as clean as you'd like. You might make dinner more basic so you don't have to stress about prep or cleanup.

You have work to do, and that's going to be very challenging with your kids at home. So let some things go, within reason.

ASK YOUR KIDS TO STEP UP TO THE CHALLENGE

Kids like to feel that they have an important role. Help them understand that this is an unusual time and that we ALL need to pitch in to get through it.

If your kids don't have a few chores yet, this is a great time to start. Make it a daily part of their routine, and let them know that they're helping the family out by pitching in.

Also let your kids know that by sacrificing their social and school time, they are doing a great service to other more vulnerable community members. They are helping to keep people safe.

Be on the lookout for ways you and your child can help a neighbor – maybe an elderly person who needs groceries, or the kid next door who doesn't have a solid lunch. Help when you can, and let your child brainstorm ways to help.

This is a chance to model altruism, so take it.

FIND A WAY TO MAKE SOME SPECIAL MEMORIES

As weird as it sounds, there are actually some good opportunities here to make special memories with your kids.

We are in uncharted territory now. I'm almost certain that we will remember this time – and how we came together, or didn't – decades from now. So do your best to find some way to create special moments.

  • Maybe every night the kids get to put special toppings on an ice cream scoop.
  • Maybe you all read together in a tent with a flashlight, to create a sense of adventure and camaraderie rather than fear.
  • Maybe you watch a movie together as a family each night, knowing you can sleep in a bit later (unless you have toddlers, in which case good luck sleeping later).
  • Maybe instead of a regular nightly bath it's a bubble bath with glow sticks around the room.

You get the idea.

Kids love and appreciate magic, and anything that seems "special" or out of the ordinary. So do something to acknowledge that this time is different – and to allow a new, special tradition to take root in your child's mind.

These are the things childhood memories are made of, and despite the fear many of us feel, we do have an opportunity here.

THIS IS GOING TO BE HARD.

But we can do it.

In fact – we have no other choice! It's like being in labor that way. You can't really opt out, and it's going to hurt, but….well, it is the reality of our current situation.

As much as possible, try to think of yourself as a strong leader for your kids (even if you kind of want to puke right now). Step into the role you've been given. Every generation faces hardships, and it is too soon to tell what it is we are up against here. But we can do this.

Reach out to your friends, laugh when you can, and remember that this will pass. And let's help each other out whenever possible.

This article was originally published on A Mothership Down.

People often think of government bureaucrats as being boring stuffed shirts, but whoever runs social media at the National Park Service is proving that at least some of them have a sense of humor.

In a Facebook post, the NPS shared some seasonal advice for park-goers about what to do if they happen to encounter a bear, and it's both helpful and hilarious. Not that a confrontation with a bear in real life is a laughing matter—bears can be dangerous—but humor is a good way to get people to pay attention to important advice.

They wrote:

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People often think of government bureaucrats as being boring stuffed shirts, but whoever runs social media at the National Park Service is proving that at least some of them have a sense of humor.

In a Facebook post, the NPS shared some seasonal advice for park-goers about what to do if they happen to encounter a bear, and it's both helpful and hilarious. Not that a confrontation with a bear in real life is a laughing matter—bears can be dangerous—but humor is a good way to get people to pay attention to important advice.

They wrote:

Keep Reading Show less
True

Each year, an estimated 1.8 million people in the United States are affected by cancer — most commonly cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, and blood cancers such as leukemia. While not everyone overcomes the disease, thanks to science, more people are surviving — and for longer — than ever before in history.

We asked three people whose lives have been impacted by cancer to share their stories – how their lives were changed by the disease, and how they're using that experience to change the future of cancer treatments with the hope that ultimately, in the fight against cancer, science will win. Here's what they had to say.

Celine Ryan, 55, engineer database programmer and mother of five from Detroit, MI

Photo courtesy of Celine Ryan

In September 2013, Celine Ryan woke up from a colonoscopy to some traumatic news. Her gastroenterologist showed her a picture of the cancerous mass they found during the procedure.

Ryan and her husband, Patrick, had scheduled a colonoscopy after discovering some unusual bleeding, so the suspicion she could have cancer was already there. Neither of them, however, were quite prepared for the results to be positive -- or for the treatment to begin so soon. Just two days after learning the news, Ryan had surgery to remove the tumor, part of her bladder, and 17 cancerous lymph nodes. Chemotherapy and radiation soon followed.

Ryan's treatment was rigorous – but in December 2014, she got the devastating news that the cancer, once confined to her colon, had spread to her lungs. Her prognosis, they said, was likely terminal.

But rather than give up hope, Ryan sought support from online research, fellow cancer patients and survivors, and her medical team. When she brought up immunotherapy to her oncologist, he quickly agreed it was the best course of action. Ryan's cancer, like a majority of colon and pancreatic cancers, had been caused by a defect on the gene KRAS, which can result in a very aggressive cancer that is virtually "undruggable." According to the medical literature, the relatively smooth protein structure of the KRAS gene meant that designing inhibitors to bind to surface grooves and treat the cancer has been historically difficult. Through her support systems, Ryan discovered an experimental immunotherapy trial at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD., and called them immediately to see if she was eligible. After months of trying to determine whether she was a suitable candidate for the experimental treatment, Ryan was finally accepted.

The treatment, known as tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte therapy, or TIL, is a testament to how far modern science has evolved. With this therapy, doctors remove a tumor and harvest special immune cells that are found naturally in the tumor. Doctors then grow the cells in a lab over the next several weeks with a protein that promotes rapid TIL growth – and once the cells number into the billions, they are infused back into the patient's body to fight the cancer. On April 1, 2015, Ryan had her tumor removed at the NIH. Two months later, she went inpatient for four weeks to have the team "wash out" her immune system with chemotherapy and infuse the cells – all 148 billion of them – back into her body.

Six weeks after the infusion, Ryan and Patrick went back for a follow-up appointment – and the news they got was stunning: Not only had no new tumors developed, but the six existing tumors in her lungs had shrunk significantly. Less than a year after her cell infusion, in April 2016, the doctors told Ryan news that would have been impossible just a decade earlier: Thanks to the cell infusion, Ryan was now considered NED – no evaluable disease. Her body was cancer-free.

Ryan is still NED today and continuing annual follow-up appointments at the NIH, experiencing things she never dreamed she'd be able to live to see, such as her children's high school and college graduations. She's also donating her blood and cells to the NIH to help them research other potential cancer treatments. "It was an honor to do so," Ryan said of her experience. "I'm just thrilled, and I hope my experience can help a lot more people."

Patrice Lee, PhD, VP of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Exploratory Development at Pfizer

Photo courtesy of Patrice Lee

Patrice Lee got into scientific research in an unconventional way – through the late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Lee never met Cousteau but her dreams of working with him one day led her to pursue a career in science. Initially, Lee completed an undergraduate degree in marine biology; eventually, her interests changed and she decided to get a dual doctoral degree in physiology and toxicology at Duke University. She now works at Pfizer's R&D site in Boulder, CO (formerly Array BioPharma), leading a group of scientists who determine the safety and efficacy of new oncology drugs.

"Scientists focused on drug discovery and development in the pharmaceutical industry are deeply committed to inventing new therapies to meet unmet needs," Lee says, describing her field of work. "We're driven to achieve new medicines and vaccines as quickly as possible without sacrificing safety."

Among the drugs Lee has helped develop during her career, including cancer therapies, she says around a dozen are currently in development, while nine have received FDA approval — an incredible accomplishment as many scientists spend their careers without seeing their drug make it to market. Lee's team is particularly interested in therapies for brain metastases — something that Lee says is a largely unmet need in cancer research, and something her team is working on from a variety of angles. "Now that we've had rapid success with mRNA vaccine technology, we hope to explore what the future holds when applying this technology to cancers," Lee says.

But while evaluating potential cancer therapies is a professional passion of Lee's, it's also a mission that's deeply personal. "I'm also a breast cancer survivor," she says. "So I've been on the other side of things and have participated in a clinical trial."

However, seeing how melanoma therapies that she helped develop have affected other real-life cancer patients, she says, has been a highlight of her career. "We had one therapy that was approved for patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma," Lee recalls. "Our team in Boulder was graced by a visit from a patient that had benefited from these drugs that we developed. It was a very special moment for the entire team."

None of these therapies would be available, Lee says without rigorous science behind it: "Facts come from good science. Facts will drive the development of new drugs, and that's what will help patients."

Chiuying "Cynthia" Kuk (they/them) MS, 34, third-year medical student at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Kuk

Cynthia Kuk was just 10 years old when they had a conversation that would change their life forever.

"My mother, who worked as a translator for the government at the time, had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and after her chemotherapy treatments she would get really sick," Kuk, who uses they/them pronouns, recalls. "When I asked my dad why mom was puking so much, he said it was because of the medicine she was taking that would help her get better."

Kuk's response was immediate: "That's so stupid! Why would a medicine make you feel worse instead of better? When I'm older, I want to create medicine that won't make people sick like that."

Nine years later, Kuk traveled from their native Hong Kong to the United States to do exactly that. Kuk enrolled in a small, liberal arts college for their Bachelor's degree, and then four years later started a PhD program in cancer research. Although Kuk's mother was in remission from her cancer at the time, Kuk's goal was the same as it had been as a 10-year-old watching her suffer through chemotherapy: to design a better cancer treatment, and change the landscape of cancer research forever.

Since then, Kuk's mission has changed slightly.

"My mom's cancer relapsed in 2008, and she ended up passing away about five years after that," Kuk says. "After my mom died, I started having this sense of urgency. Cancer research is such that you work for twenty years, and at the end of it you might have a fancy medication that could help people, but I wanted to help people now." With their mother still at the forefront of their mind, Kuk decided to quit their PhD program and enter medical school.

Now, Kuk plans to pursue a career in emergency medicine – not only because they are drawn to the excitement of the emergency room, but because the ER is a place where the most marginalized people tend to seek care.

"I have a special interest in the LGBTQ+ population, as I identify as queer and nonbinary," says Kuk. "A lot of people in this community and other marginalized communities access care through the ER and also tend to avoid medical care since there is a history of mistreatment and judgement from healthcare workers. How you carry yourself as a doctor, your compassion, that can make a huge difference in someone's care."

In addition to making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ patients, Kuk wants to make a difference in the lives of patients with cancer as well, like their mother had.

"We've diagnosed patients in the Emergency Department with cancer before," Kuk says. "I can't make cancer good news but how you deliver bad news and the compassion you show could make a world of difference to that patient and their family."

During their training, Kuk advocates for patients by delivering compassionate and inclusive care, whether they happen to have cancer or not. In addition to emphasizing their patient's pronouns and chosen names, they ask for inclusive social and sexual histories as well as using gender neutral language. In doing this, they hope to make medicine as a whole more accessible for people who have been historically pushed aside.

"I'm just one person, and I can't force everyone to respect you, if you're marginalized," Kuk says. "But I do want to push for a culture where people appreciate others who are different from them."