Nurturing Calm & Connection During the Coronavirus Crisis

by | Mar 15, 2020 | Anxiety, Mental Health, Parenting

Having spent many years as a teacher, I remember how challenging the week before spring break could be – everyone feeling the freedom of spring after the long months of winter and needing a break from each other.

I can’t help but think how much harder it is right now with the extra stress being swirled up by the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic.

I could see the stress and worry in teachers’ faces when I recently visited a couple classrooms at my granddaughter’s school. I could feel the stress in the first grade classroom even as I began our lesson on kindness and compassion.

The sweet first graders looked up at me. “I want you to know that I care about you,” I said. “So I got up this morning and put on a nice dress and took care of myself just so I could be here with you right now.

“And there are so many other people in the community who care about you, too,” I continued, “and are there to help us when things get difficult – your family, your friends, firefighters, doctors….”

Then I started the video for one of my favorite lessons from our Empower Program: Social Animals.

As we watched the video together, listening to Mandy B talk about the science behind compassion and kindness, her calming voice helped the classroom tune in to a softer, kinder, and more relaxed state. The softening continued as we watched Mandy give her little dog Junebug a belly rub and listened to the beautiful song she had written with a friend: “Hang on to Me.”

Watch it here:

Then we played the Follow-Along movement video, which ended with the students in pairs, finger-drawing images and writing messages on each others’ backs. The room was absolutely peaceful. I felt that I’d been able to give a gift to both teachers and students.

Watch it here:

Creating Calm, Empowering Kids

Calming activities such as these are especially important in times of turmoil.

When we’re facing a threat like the virus, our nervous systems are activated. We go into survival mode, always on alert – a mode that much of the media that kids’ consume encourages, as well. All the jump cuts, loud noises, and sometimes graphically violent content is a kind of assault on the nervous system. The body stays locked in stress.

This is why we deliberately took an alternate approach with the videos for Empower. They’re designed to calm the nervous system and develop relationships through real life images of people. Through the videos, students come to know Mandy B. and Junebug, as well as Jim and myself. There’s also a reliable structure, lending a welcome sense of stability. Kids can count on a calm beginning. Often, they sing along with the introduction. They swoon over images of Junebug, and it helps them connect to the comfort of their pets at home.

Tips for Helping Kids through the Pandemic

With kids at home more now – whether due to school closures or spring break – Empower’s melding of science lessons with mindful movement and social emotional learning can be an especially good resource to have at hand. Not only can it help calm them, mitigating the stress of the current circumstances, it gives them something fun to do while also teaching them about how their brains and bodies work together.

father and daughterAs the world becomes a bit quieter during this time of concern, we encourage you to take advantage of any extra time you get with your kids by pursuing all kinds of activities that can help you connect – playing cards, playing games, cooking together, crafting together, or other screen-free ways of passing the time and nurturing your relationships. There’s actually a beautiful opportunity here to enrich our closest bonds, as well as reconnect to ourselves.

Just as important is to talk with kids – your own children or your students if your school remains open – about their fears and worries about the virus. Listen to their questions and answer them honestly, as best you can. Trusted sources have made many resources available to help adults help the kids in their lives make sense of what’s going on and learn the proper safety precautions to take. .

And be sure to remind them often that there are good people everywhere, doing all they can to help us all stay safe and healthy.

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