COVID-19 Parent Resources
A note from PGCS School Social Worker, Allison Marcus, MSW, LSW
Right now, all over the world there is growing uncertainty and fear as the COVID-19 threat extends throughout the world.
While the pandemic spreads, we continue to find ourselves entering the unknown and feeling lost or isolated. For many of us, this is our first time experiencing something of this scope.
I wanted to create a forum to provide you all with information in a manageable format and centralized location. I think it is now more important than ever to maintain our communication and exchanges resources.
I would like to focus my posts on sharing:
- Mental Health Resources: stress and anxiety might be at an all-time high right now and what are the best ways to manage this?
- Parenting Resources: I know that many of you might now be working from home AND facilitating your children’s virtual learning. What are some ideas to cope with these challenging new roles?
- Financial Resources: unemployment and workplace layoffs have become a growing threat throughout New Jersey, as many companies struggle to pay employees with mandatory statewide shutdowns. What can you do if you are struggling financially?
I hope that this blog will help to offer you all support and empowerment in this time of adversity. When we are faced with challenges that may appear endless, with no definitive end in sight, we must remember that impermanence is one of our great truths. We are all in constant states of evolving, progress, and change. We can remember, “Everything changes.” This situation will not last forever. We will get through.
“You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep Spring from coming.”
― Pablo Neruda
Families, please check back here regularly as I will continue to provide updated resources. Please feel free to reach out to me with resources you feel would be helpful to other parents during this time of need. I can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are feeling lost fielding questions from your kids, there is a wealth of information online to help you talk to your kids about the Coronavirus and some tools for parents to talk to kids about anxiety and mental health.
This link: https://www.wholechildcounseling.com/post/coronavirus-resources-for-kids-parents-counselors-and-educators has great visuals, with resources for managing anxiety and stress, social stories, simple handwashing visuals, tips for creating routine and structure, visual schedules, videos for discussing and educating your kids about the coronavirus, and many more!
This link: https://www.smore.com/udqm2-covid-19-preparedness?fbclid=IwAR0lYLo-1XYHii86feXVZGkJG83eFZoHSIGt6NnIJ-1CEuwVytozxPicU1A provides many different formats for discussion and has compiled resources to help you talk to your kids about coronavirus. It has songs, social stories, handwashing visuals, AND even language boards with core vocabulary. It also has different formats with ideas on how to talk to your kids about social distancing. For AAC users, here are some examples of the supports the website contains:
- Free Access to AAC Language Lab
- COVID-19 Conversations with Proloquo2GO
- Learn about using Proloquo2Go to talk about coronavirus here.
- Supporting Emergent Communicators
- LAMP WFL Resources
- If you use LAMP Words for Life, these resources may be helpful. Many thanks to Storm Speech Therapy for creating them.
- Coronavirus Resources (including communication boards)
- Tobii Dynavox shares a variety of resources, including downloadable communication boards in multiple languages.
I encourage you to check these out! I know too much information can be overwhelming at times but if you can look through and find one thing that would help to support you and your family, just start there and start small.
Are you struggling with what to say to your child about what’s happening in the world right now? That is OKAY and it’s perfectly normal. Some of you may be managing your own difficult feelings too.
Here are some quick tips for helping your child navigate through their feelings:
- If you can, ask your child what they know and what their fears are
- Ask and do you best to answer whatever questions they may have
- Validate their concerns and feelings
- Be honest
- It’s okay to admit, “I don’t know.”
- Do your best to maintain structure and routine throughout the day (e.g., continue to eat dinner together, maintain morning routine, let you child know what expectations you have for them, make a visual schedule for the day, maintain a consistent bedtime)
- Take care of yourself: make time to be mindful, limit how much and what kind of news that you are reading, exercise, ask for help or a break when you need it
- Put together a family coping skills toolkit, which includes anything your family enjoys that can help you to destress (e.g., have a dance party, try to do some yoga or breathing with them—YouTube has some short, kid-friendly ones, take “brain breaks”)
If you would like to learn some more, I put together some additional resources that will be useful to discuss difficult feelings surrounding COVID-19 and how you can continue to support your child if they’re struggling (and additional tips for families in general).
Helping Families Cope PDF
Coping With Stress During Infectious Disease Outbreaks PDF
Parenting Children Ages 2-11 During the Coronavirus Outbreak PDF
Talking With Children: Tips for Caregivers, Parents, and Teachers During Infectious Disease Outbreaks PDF
My Kid’s School is Closed–NOW WHAT? (article)
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” – Mr. Rogers
If you are concerned about your finances or lost your job due to the COVID-19 outbreak, then there are some resources that are available to help you.
For employees who need more information about earned sick leave, temporary disability, and family leave insurance, the NJ Department of Labor has compiled a page of information here: https://www.nj.gov/labor/worker-protections/earnedsick/covid.shtml. It contains comprehensive eligibility requirements and links to apply to the programs indicated.
If you or someone you know is in urgent need of work, the state of New Jersey has created a job portal here: https://jobs.covid19.nj.gov/ with organizations and positions that are currently looking for immediate hire.
If you need additional assistance, you can access https://covid19.nj.gov/faqs/get-assistance to see if you are eligible for services including help paying for groceries, insurance, and food and cash assistance. This links to a self-assessment where you can determine if you are eligible.
Check out more on the official State of New Jersey COVID-NJ resource page https://covid19.nj.gov/. You can text NJCOVID to 848-211 to receive important alerts. This site also contains live updates, announcements, frequently asked questions, available services and additional information to explore, and a place for YOU to ask questions.
For those who feel that they are at risk of foreclosure or eviction, “The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced on March 18 that it will halt all new foreclosures, cease action on foreclosure actions currently in progress and cease all evictions of persons from FHA (Federal Housing Administration) mortgaged single-family homes. This guidance applies for a 60-day period. It was also announced that Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, two of the biggest housing lenders in the U.S., will also suspend foreclosures and evictions for at least 60 days,” according to the New Jersey State Bar Foundation https://njsbf.org/contact-us/covid-19-information-resource-page/. Governor Murphy also signed an executive order to cease all evictions and foreclosures in the state until further notice. The National Low-Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) and Seton Hall Law Civil Litigation Clinic: Foreclosure Defense Project can provide you with additional information.
United Way of Northern New Jersey has partnered with United Way of Hunterdon County to establish the ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) Fund, which is in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and meant to support households impacted financially as a result. The ALICE Fund provides individuals who qualify with direct assistance if they meet the residency and income guidelines. To qualify, applicants must be residents of Hunterdon, Morris, Somerset, Suburban Essex, Sussex, and Warren counties. Suburban Essex includes the Caldwells, Cedar Grove, Essex Fells, Fairfield, Glen Ridge, Livingston, Millburn-Short Hills, Montclair, Roseland, and Verona. Financial eligibility requirements are as follows:
- Prior to the pandemic, single adults must have had an annual income below $35,560 without dependents or no more than $88,128 with two or more dependents.
- Prior to the pandemic, two adult households must have had an annual income below $52,444 without dependents or no more than $103,836 with two or more dependents.
- Applicants will need to provide documentation showing loss of income due to the pandemic, beginning February 1, 2020.
The application is available online through United Way (Click here to access) or a printable version is available upon request.
A question that I am hearing come up for many families is how to simultaneously juggle the three roles of parenting, facilitating your children’s virtual classes, and keeping up with your own schedule with working from home. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer for the way this should look. There are many people experiencing this same situation and it looks different for each family.
Depending on your work situation, you may be able to break up your work day to create more flexibility. You can explore if it is possible to find other openings throughout the day when you are not struggling to manage your child’s virtual classroom too, maybe you can get up a little earlier and finish some emails before your kids are awake or maybe later at night works better for you. Some parents are able to take shifts with their spouse to evenly distribute some of the responsibility.
Throughout all of this is, it is so important to acknowledge to yourself and to your family, this is a stressful situation. Everyone’s schedule is disrupted and you might even be missing out on other events you were looking forward to; many families have seen graduations, vacations, and other activities canceled as a result of the pandemic. Many people, even including your kids, are experiencing different degrees of grief, disappointment, loneliness and boredom, anxiety, depression, and hopelessness/helplessness and that is okay. The best solution might not be what you want but there are some adjustments you can make to manage everything a little more smoothly. Here are some tips to consider:
- Adapt your expectations to the current environment
- Maintain your routines and structure (e.g., consistent bedtimes and wake up times, meal schedules, and hygiene routines)
- Reward desirable behavior
- Give choices and options throughout the day
- Take time to focus on the positive
- Make time for fun activities
- Model balance for your kids
- Talk about your feelings and your kids feelings
- Create a “school-space” to help your kids differentiate between school and home
- Re-create any classroom management tips that are effective in the classroom (i.e., First-Then Boards, visual schedules)
- Check in on your OWN needs and take time for own self-care, even if you can only steal five minutes to yourself (listen to your favorite song, call your funniest friend, meditate/pray, write a note to a loved one)
Here are some more resources that have more specific information about maintaining balance and navigating these new roles and responsibilities:
COVID-19 Parenting Tips from UNICEF PDF
While many of us have experienced grief in some form in our lifetimes, COVID-19 has presented many people with the challenge of overcoming a new kind of grief. Many people associate grief with the process we experience after losing a loved one. While this is true, there are many other losses that people grieve. Some examples of losses related to COVID-19 include: the ability to mourn with others, routine, a job, the ability to participate in some coping skills that may have been previously been effective (i.e. going to the gym), freedom/independence/space, the ability to participate in celebrations (weddings, graduations, birthdays, vacation, prom, holidays), human contact, contact with family, financial security, consistent safe place or person (school, therapist, teacher, coworker), death of a loved one to COVID-19 or to other causes, and hands-on learning opportunities. The feelings of loss from any of these experiences can come in waves, where some moments may feel more poignant at times. This is a normal experience of a very abnormal circumstance. How ever you experience your loss is YOUR process, but there are some coping techniques that you can use to help:
- Acknowledge your reality: research the current situation (from trustworthy sources and within limits) and explore what you already know
- Honor and remember: remember how life used to be and acknowledge the parts that you miss
- Feelings: identify, normalize, and search for a way to express your difficult feelings
- Cope: do not suppress feelings but identify new ways to adjust to changes and make deliberate attempts to boost your self-care
- Moving forward: refocus on the present and the future. What can you do RIGHT NOW that is helpful?
A webinar I participated in shared a pertinent reminder that can serve as your mantra during this situation where you might be asked to fulfill three simultaneous and consuming roles (employee, parent, and teacher). Dr. Emily King (a child, adolescent, and family psychologist) offers: It’s not hard because you are doing it wrong. It’s hard because it’s too much. Do the best you can.
Make time for silliness, forgiveness, and mistakes. Relish in the togetherness, even the tough moments. Choose your battles. Be kind to yourself. Ask someone for help. Remember your innate resilience. Practice your coping skills.
Many insurance companies are offering the option of teletherapy and if you feel this would be helpful or would like more information, contact your healthcare provider to discuss your options. Additionally, here are some online grief resources:
- Good Grief
- This has COVID-19 resources including podcasts, webinars for helping your children build resistance, and more
- My Grief Angels
- This has an online support network, COVID-19 resources, inspiration, and information
- Cares: Addiction, Recovery, Education, and Success
- Provides an online grief support group via Zoom on a weekly basis
- The Compassionate Friends
- Offers online support groups
- Offers online support groups and daily encouragement emails
- Provides resources, written materials, a Facebook daily group, grief workshops, and information for special populations
- Sesame Street
- YouTube video called “When Families Grieve” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a2VpflpbOmk
- Compilation of resources, ideas, and ways to your kids process grief: https://sesamestreetincommunities.org/topics/grief/
- What’s Your Grief
- Information, ideas, and resources of how to grieve when you can’t be with a dying family member
- Imagine NJ
- Grief program and resources in NJ for children and families
- National Alliance for Grieving Children
- A list of 36 programs in NJ with resources and programs for children and their families
- The Dougy Center: The National Center for Grieving Children and Families
- Online support group and resource page for children and families
- Mindfulness and coping skills resources
Now that it is July, we are well underway into the Extended School Year program and many people’s summer plans are unfolding, you may be in need of child care for additional support. Unfortunately, there is not one source that can provide you with the perfect solution to your child care struggles but there are some resources you can look into to assist you in getting the help you need.
There are some websites that can help you identify and screen babysitters. Care.com and similar sites like Sitter City will let you create a profile for what you are looking for in a babysitter and it allows people to submit applications. Then you can scan the profiles of potential babysitters and interview them as needed. There are also options for completing background checks on applicants that you like.
Another concern I hear from parents is identifying a babysitter with the proper skills to meet their child’s needs and ensure their safety. An idea to explore would be to contact local colleges in the area and see if they can help you identify a Master or Bachelor’s level student pursuing a career in speech therapy, occupational therapy, or physical therapy because they might have an expanded knowledge of the skills you are looking for in a babysitter. You can also specify this in your preferences on one of the aforementioned babysitter websites.
Greater MetroWest ABLE (associated with the Jewish Family Service of MetroWest NJ in Livingston, NJ) offers training opportunities and a babysitter training course for individuals working with children who have special needs. To find out more about this program or who to contact, please reach out to me at email@example.com.
PerformCare is the single point of entry to the Children’s System of Care in New Jersey for families to receive services for children. This New Jersey funded agency will help provide you with access to many different resources to help support your family and your child. Resources include: Family Support Services, Summer Camp, Crisis Intervention, case management services, and respite care. With the respite services offered through PerformCare, families are able to access afterschool programs or may receive an allowance to pay a personal babysitter/caregiver of their choice. The application is lengthy but the opportunities that come with it are vast. Access the ID/DD application here.
Child and Family Resources of Morris County: you may be eligible for a subsidy to help pay for childcare, including camps that are approved by the state. Unfortunately, options can be limited and this will not cover a private babysitter. If you are interested or to see if you would be eligible click the link here.
COVID-Specific Child Care Financial Support (according to http://covid19.nj.gov):
New Jersey’s Child Care Subsidy Program helps income-eligible parents pay for child care and was expanded to support New Jersey families and providers that have been impacted by the spread of COVID-19. If you need help paying for child care, you can use this calculator to see if you are likely to be eligible or visit the Division of Family Development’s page for parents to learn more about this program.
New Jersey launched an Emergency Child Care Assistance Program (ECCAP) to help support child care costs of essential workers, regardless of their income. This program will come to an end in June and applications are no longer being accepted. Visit the Division of Family Development’s Emergency Child Care page for more information.”
Additional ideas to help meet your needs:
Talk to the Human Resources agency at your workplace. You may be eligible for the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). Employer Paid Leave Requirements can be accessed here.
Know your rights: review the NJ Department of Labor’s guidelines for worker benefits, protections, and the Coronavirus, including the federal CARES Act. Find out more here.
Check your local ARC. ARC can help you find out more about services that may be available in your community for assistance. Visit the ARC of NJ’s website here.
Check out Facebook for Parent Support Groups offering ideas and resources (although, use your discretion when reviewing posts and discuss ideas with your teams for additional feedback)
Check out Aunt Bertha, a “Social Care Network,” that has compiled resources in many different categories. You type in your zip code, what you are looking for, and then you can narrow your search to make it more specific to your needs or start exploring the results.
*All information, opinions, and advice expressed in these links are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of P.G. Chambers School or its staff members and the presentation of the material here does not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of P.G. Chambers School.