July 20, 2020, by Elizabeth Mesic
Last Monday our Governor rolled back our progressive opening of the state in response to rising case numbers of CoronaVirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) and fear of limited health resources. Now some of the school districts across our state are announcing decisions to start the new 2020 school year this Fall with more homeschool, while others have not released their plans for the school year 2020-2021. The school year is set to start in a matter of weeks, yet many of the schools we work with, the students we teach and their parents have no clear idea of how the education will work this Fall. This on top of the worldwide pandemic which has led to economic troubles, quarantine, sickness, and death. This has left many of us feeling stressed out and raising our hands up to ask what is next.
One thing is clear. This uncertainty has affected nearly every part of our lives and has resulted in a residual stress level which is surely greater than previous years and our kiddos are not immune to increased stress. But there is an answer. Although we cannot predict the future, there are things we can do to make plans, and stay flexible as plans change around us. With COVID-19 we have all become accustomed to frequent required fever monitoring. As you prepare for Fall, be sure to expand your temperature check to include a stress temperature. How stressed are you and how stressed are your kids? Kids, like adults, can show stress by exhibiting mood changes, acting out behaviors, and changes in sleeping patterns. So, dig deep for patience when you observe this stress behavior in your kids, and try these strategies to improve the mood in your domain.
Although this behavior, and situation is no laughing matter, laughter can be a great pick you up. Try watching a funny movie, show, or YouTube video with your kids to get everyone laughing. Read a joke book, play a game that involves laughing.
Be sure to stay healthy. This means exercise outdoors, if possible, to get the benefit from both the elevated heart rate as well as the sun rays you might be missing. Get 8 hours of sleep daily and eat healthy foods.
Maintain and improve your mental health. Give lots of hugs, and positive praise. Focusing on the positive can improve your outlook as well as encourage kids and adults to continue doing the things you like and value. Call or visit with friends and family often. Talk through difficult situations. We can anticipate problems with the return to school and by talking about them, our kids can have an idea of what may happen. Acknowledge others’ feelings; it’s normal to feel scared, anxious, angry, frustrated, annoyed, etc. Others have those strong feelings too. Reassure them they can handle these challenges and be flexible when plans do not go as planned. Get help if you need help. Here is a link to more resources for kids/teens handling stress.
When we overcome challenges, there will be things we have learned and gained in the process. That has been the case for us here at Bionerds. Bionerds started our online curriculum in response to the rapid closure of all our classes. This coursework, created out of need, has expanded to include students in an ever wider demographic. So, as we return to in-person classes, we are excited by the opportunities to teach in new outdoor and indoor spaces and to continue our online courses. We hope that you and your kids can continue to thrive as you maneuver through the uncertainties of 2020. Whatever happens, we hope that science will be there to give you answers and that you and your kids will continue to be healthy together.
Elizabeth Mesic is an Educator Associate who graduated from University of Minnesota with a Bachelors of Science degree in Biological Sciences and Public Health. She has years of experience working with kids. She went on to work with a laboratory technology company where she worked with laboratories all over the United States on their purification processes. After observing the after-school programs at her child’s school, she jumped at the chance to share science with kids in a fun, hands on way. She enjoys the excitement kids bring to science and loves to see that interest grow. Bionerds is fortunate to have her on the team.