Kids in COVID-19 will be caregivers and community leaders. How do we help them prepare?

Children and young people are going to take on a lot in the coming weeks and months.

Children and young people are going to witness and bear a lot in the coming weeks and months in the United States.

The structure of school days are disappearing. Their families and communities are going to go through rapid economic decline.

They are going to see family members who are very sick.

Some are going to be in households where everyone is sick except them, and there are no other caregivers. (And yes, some of them will be sick, sometimes very sick. Children also have conditions that can make it more likely that they get ill or that will make COVID-19 more severe.).

Family members, neighbors and community members are going to die.

Yes, there's even more stuff that most of us are not talking about and doing that we need to talk about and do. So…

What do we do?

I am not a child development professional or expert.

I’m a parent living with chronic illnesses in a household with another adult with a chronic illnesses. And I’m not going to talk a lot about my own child, in respect for her privacy.

But I do know that she is scared about what’s happening with this pandemic, and I know she wants to help. And I’m scared, and I want to help. But what to do?

In all of our preparations and response efforts, I urge us to:

1) Prioritize:

What absolutely has to happen first so other things can happen more readily, or happen at all?

Ok, this issue feels big, and primary. And hard. But important. I am going to prioritize it.

2) Plan where you are and do what you know.

I’m an emergent strategist, facilitator and a creative queer parent, and I have a big network. I’ve led adult education and training, but I’m not a teacher or a therapist or a child expert.

I woke up thinking about an online course that helps kids learn and use emergent strategies. So I sent out an email to a bunch of people that said this:

“IDEA/QUESTION: Online Emergent Strategies course for pre-teens/youth: In the coming weeks/months, kids are going to be living with and through a lot:

They are going to be taking on or expanding caregiving responsibilities, witnessing and dealing with the suffering and death of elders and other loved ones, , and facing accelerated restrictions and repression. and more.

To a large degree, they also aren't going to be in school.

I am writing to you because you are emergent strategists, educators (particularly those who use online platforms and/or who teach pre-teens/teens), or technology people who build stuff online and/or know those who do.

I am hoping you know of someone doing emergent strategy training for young people, online/on phone.

if not, please let me know if you'd like to learn about it or help make it happen. ”

But that is a pretty big undertaking.

Not much momentum happened during the day on that front, but also, as people start making plans for virtual and small-group homeschooling, I think it will be possible to build in plans for this kind of thing.

And maybe you will read this and be someone who can help and you’ll reach out.

3) Starting small is awesome. Think fractally: what can you do that is feasible, measurable and adaptable, and that could scale rapidly while being true to form?

A few hours later, a friend who is a therapist and parent came over, and during the day we talked to our 2 preteen kids. We made a plan to start a “talking circle” with 5-15 kids (the bigger it is, the more we’ll break out into smaller groups).

Here’s what we are going to try:

We are going to start out with the group being about 1/3 sharing feelings and questions and information; 1/3 experiential learning on facilitation and group decision-making, being a part of response planning and efforts; 1/3 playing and free time together.

My partner who is a high school teacher may try out a similar framework with high school age kids.

That’s what we know how to do. Others can and should figure out what you can do that’s based on what you know how to do, and of course, what your kids and community needs.

4) Ask those who already know and are often marginalized.

There are adults with chronic illnesses and disabilities whose kids are part of their care pod. And there are adults who did that when they were kids. In many cases, we have to do this when we can’t get the support we need from ableist, capitalist society - and that’s lousy. But also, we have learned what best we can do to support our kids who are faced with these situations, and can learn what we can do to prepare our kids for this new challenge. Please reach out if you’d like to contribute to the knowledge base and practices - but only if it is good for you at this time.

5) Start with SMARTIE Goals.

And you may know the SMART goals thing. This adds Inclusion and Equity. Including that from the beginning and you’re building a better fractal.

6) Document and share

Write out and share what you are trying, and document how it goes and write up what you change/how you adapt it - so we can learn as we build, while supporting each other. That’s why I’m writing this. And why I will keep you updated.

What are you doing? What do you think you’ll do? There’s a comments field below. I would love for you to share what you think about this situation, what you’re trying, what you’re looking for. Thanks.