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.

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
True

When Grace Berbig was 7 years old, her mom was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. Being so young, Grace didn’t know what cancer was or why her mother was suddenly living in the hospital. But she did know this: that while her mom was in the hospital, she would always be assured that her family was thinking of her, supporting her and loving her every step of her journey.

Nearly every day, Grace and her two younger sisters would hand-make cards and fill them with drawings and messages of love, which their mother would hang all over the walls of her hospital room. These cherished letters brought immeasurable peace and joy to their mom during her sickness. Sadly, when Grace was just 10 years old, her mother lost her battle with cancer.“

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Losing my mom put the world in a completely different perspective for me,” Grace says. “I realized that you never know when someone could leave you, so you have to love the people you love with your whole heart, every day.”

Grace’s father was instrumental in helping in the healing process of his daughters. “I distinctly remember my dad constantly reminding my two little sisters, Bella and Sophie, and I that happiness is a choice, and it was now our job to turn this heartbreaking event in our life into something positive.”

When she got to high school, Grace became involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a handful of other organizations. But she never felt like she was doing enough.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for people to help beyond donating money, and one that anyone could be a part of, no matter their financial status.”

In October 2018, Grace started Letters of Love, a club at her high school in Long Lake, Minnesota, to emotionally support children battling cancer and other serious illnesses through letter-writing and craft-making.


Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Much to her surprise, more than 100 students showed up for the first club meeting. From then on, Letters of Love grew so fast that during her senior year in high school, Grace had to start a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of card-making materials.

Speaking about her nonprofit today, Grace says, “I can’t find enough words to explain how blessed I feel to have this organization. Beyond the amount of kids and families we are able to support, it allows me to feel so much closer and more connected to my mom.”

Since its inception, Letters of Love has grown to more than 25 clubs with more than 1,000 members providing emotional support to more than 60,000 patients in children’s hospitals around the world. And in the process it has become a full-time job for Grace.

“I do everything from training volunteers and club ambassadors, paying bills, designing merchandise, preparing financial predictions and overviews, applying for grants, to going through each and every card ensuring they are appropriate to send out to hospitals.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

In addition to running Letters of Love, Grace and her small team must also contend with the emotions inherent in their line of work.

“There have been many, many tears cried,” she says. “Working to support children who are battling cancer and other serious and sometimes chronic illnesses can absolutely be extremely difficult mentally. I feel so blessed to be an organization that focuses solely on bringing joy to these children, though. We do everything we can to simply put a smile on their face, and ensure they know that they are so loved, so strong, and so supported by people all around the world.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Letters of Love has been particularly instrumental in offering emotional support to children who have been unable to see friends and family due to COVID-19. A video campaign in the summer of 2021 even saw members of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild offer short videos of hope and encouragement to affected children.

Grace is currently taking a gap year before she starts college so she can focus on growing Letters of Love as well as to work on various related projects, including the publication of a children’s book.

“The goal of the book is to teach children the immense impact that small acts of kindness can have, how to treat their peers who may be diagnosed with disabilities or illness, and how they are never too young to change the world,” she says.

Since she was 10, Grace has kept memories of her mother close to her, as a source of love and inspiration in her life and in the work she does with Letters of Love.

Image courtesy of Grace Berbig

“When I lost my mom, I felt like a section of my heart went with her, so ever since, I have been filling that piece with love and compassion towards others. Her smile and joy were infectious, and I try to mirror that in myself and touch people’s hearts as she did.”

For more information visit Letters of Love.

Please donate to Grace’s GoFundMe and help Letters of Love to expand, publish a children’s book and continue to reach more children in hospitals around the world.

Ronny Tertnes' "liquid sculptures" are otherworldly.

Human beings have sculpted artwork out of all kinds of materials throughout history, from clay to concrete to bronze. Some sculpt with water in the form of ice, but what if you could create sculptures with small drops of liquid?

Norwegian artist Ronny Tertnes does just that. His "liquid sculptures" look like something from another planet or another dimension, while at the same time are entirely recognizable as water droplets.

I mean, check this out:


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Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
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The day was scorching hot, but the weather wasn’t going to stop a Star Wars Stormtrooper from handing out school supplies to a long line of eager children. “You guys don’t have anything illegal back there - any droids or anything?” the Stormtrooper asks, making sure he was safe from enemies before handing over a colorful backpack to a smiling boy.

The man inside the costume is Yuri Williams, founder of AFutureSuperhero And Friends, a Los Angeles nonprofit that uplifts and inspires marginalized people with small acts of kindness.

Yuri’s organization is one of four inaugural grant winners from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, a joint initiative between Upworthy and GoFundMe that celebrates kindness and everyday actions inspired by the best of humanity. This year, the Upworthy Kindness Fund is giving $100,000 to grassroots changemakers across the world.

To apply, campaign organizers simply tell Upworthy how their kindness project is making a difference. Between now and the end of 2021, each accepted individual or organization will receive $500 towards an existing GoFundMe and a shout-out on Upworthy.

Meet the first four winners:

1: Balance Dance Project: This studio aims to bring accessible dance to all in the Sacramento, CA area. Lead fundraiser Miranda Macias says many dancers spend hours a day at Balance practicing contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop, and ballet. Balance started a GoFundMe to raise money to cover tuition for dancers from low-income communities, buy dance team uniforms, and update its facility. The $500 contribution from the Kindness Fund nudged Balance closer to its $5,000 goal.

2: Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team: In Los Angeles, middle school teacher James Pike is introducing his students to the field of robotics via a Lego-building team dedicated to solving real-world problems.

James started a GoFundMe to crowdfund supplies for his students’ team ahead of the First Lego League, a school-against-school matchup that includes robotics competitions. The team, James explained, needed help to cover half the cost of the pricey $4,000 robotics kit. Thanks to help from the Upworthy Kindness Fund and the generosity of the Citizens of the World Middle School community, the team exceeded its initial fundraising goal.

Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team video update youtu.be

3: Black Fluidity Tattoo Club: Kiara Mills and Tann Parker want to fix a big problem in the tattoo industry: there are too few Black tattoo artists. To tackle the issue, the duo founded the Black Fluidity Tattoo Club to inspire and support Black tattooers. While the Brooklyn organization is open to any Black person, Kiara and Tann specifically want to encourage dark-skinned artists to train in an affirming space among people with similar identities.

To make room for newcomers, the club recently moved into a larger studio with a third station for apprentices or guest artists. Unlike a traditional fundraiser that supports the organization exclusively, Black Fluidity Tattoo Club will distribute proceeds from GoFundMe directly to emerging Black tattoo artists who are starting their own businesses. The small grants, supported in part with a $500 contribution from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, will go towards artists’ equipment, supplies, furnishings, and other start-up costs.

4: AFutureSuperhero And Friends’ “Hope For The Holidays”: Founder Yuri Williams is fundraising for a holiday trip to spread cheer to people in need across all fifty states.

Along with collaborator Rodney Smith Jr., Yuri will be handing out gifts to children, adults, and animals dressed as a Star Wars’ Stormtrooper, Spiderman, Deadpool, and other movie or comic book characters. Starting this month, the crew will be visiting children with disabilities or serious illnesses, bringing leashes and toys to animal shelters for people taking home a new pet, and spreading blessings to unhoused people—all while in superhero costume. This will be the third time Yuri and his nonprofit have taken this journey.

AFutureSuperhero started a GoFundMe in July to cover the cost of gifts as well as travel expenses like hotels and rental cars. To help the nonprofit reach its $15,000 goal, the Upworthy Kindness Fund contributed $500 towards this good cause.

Think you qualify for the fund? Tell us how you’re bringing kindness to your community. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis from now through the end of 2021. For questions and more information, please check out our FAQ's and the Kindness Toolkit for resources on how to start your own kindness fundraiser.

The scarf, a simple accessory that some find an essential fashion piece. Both fashionable and function with the warmth they provide, scarves can be a valuable gift for any occasion or person. Here, we've selected our best selling scarves from our store. At Upworthy Market, when you purchase a product, you directly support the artisans who craft their own products, so with every purchase, you're doing good. These scarves are not only unique, but they are hand-made by local artisans and all under $30.

1. Fair Trade Woven Dark Gray Alpaca Blend Scarf

Celinda Jaco selects a cozy blend of Andean alpaca for this handsome men's scarf. Classic in style, it features fine stripes of white and black woven through the dark grey textile. Hand-tied fringe completes a distinguished design.

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Kayla Sullivan nails the reality of toddler tantrums in her mock news report.

Anyone who's ever had a 2-year-old knows that they can be … a lot. Adorable for sure, but … a lot. Toddlers are just starting to figure out that they have their own free will, but they have zero idea how to wield it or use it for good. They want what they want, when they want it—except when they change their mind and absolutely do not want what they just wanted—and they don't really have the emotional maturity or verbal acuity to adequately express any of these things without crying, whining or screaming.

There's a reason they're so darn cute.

For parents, handling a 2-year-old's 2-year-oldness can be a challenge. You can't rationalize with them. You know they're not being little toddler terrors on purpose. You know that they're just learning and that it's a stage and a phase that won't last forever, but when you're in it? Phew.

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