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Child Wellbeing: Structure is Soothing

Now more than ever, helping your child keep a routine can make an incredibly positive difference in their overall wellbeing. Children thrive when they know what to expect in their day. Establishing a routine and trying your best to stick to it will help create a sense of safety and excitement for your child.

The days ahead have many unknowns. Let your plan evolve to ensure it is working for you and your family. Check in with your kids to see how it’s going and encourage them to offer up new ideas. Each family must decide what works for them and, if you need to change things up, go for it!

Consider including the following in your family routine:

Hygiene time – Shower, brush teeth, get dressed in clean clothes every day. Keeping regular hygiene is important for health and wellbeing.

Exercise time – If you are able to safely go outside with your kids, get some fresh air and get everyone’s bodies moving to burn off energy and stress. It’s great for  physical health and mental health to get 30-60 minutes of exercise each day (it doesn’t have to be all at one time). Get creative with your exercise and mix it up with activities such as walking around the block, jumping jacks, a dance party in your living room, family yoga, etc..

Play time – Creativity and play are important for child development and promoting positive behaviors. Keeping your children busy, entertained and engaged can help prevent disruptive behavior and create more positive, memorable experiences. Need some ideas for playtime? Check out these fun activities from First 5 California!

Mealtimes – Keep regular mealtimes, including snack times. Eating healthy, nutritious food such as fruits and vegetables keep your body and mind healthy and reduce stress. Limit high-fat, high-sugar foods and beverages containing caffeine, like soda. If you need assistance accessing food for your family during this time, check out our COVID-19 resource page for help.

Sleep times – Stick to regular times of going to bed and waking up each day. Create a calm place for sleep that is cool, quiet and free of distractions. Consider adding a nightly routine of reading a book or bedtime yoga.

Mental wellbeing – Take moments throughout the day to talk about feelings. Consider a routine where you talk about, write out or draw three things you are all grateful for each day. Adding 20 minutes of this kind of mindfulness to your daily routine can also soothe and reduce stress. Learn more about communicating and connecting with your child during this time to reduce stress with part one of this blog series.

Keeping as much structure as you can will be helpful for your child and your whole family, but remember to be kind to yourself if it doesn’t always go as planned! Take a look back at our blog Caring for Yourself to Care for Your Family for some additional tips on how to take care of your own wellbeing during this time, and visit our COVID-19 resource page for more information and resources.

Child Wellbeing: Communicate and Connect to Reduce Stress During COVID-19

From school closures and not being able to see grandparents or friends to cancelled events like birthday parties, your child is likely facing many new changes in their day-to-day life that can lead to higher levels of stress. This kind of stress can challenge a child’s physical and mental health, and contribute to conditions such as asthma, poor growth, depression, or behavioral problems. The good news is that there are simple things you can do every day, at home, to help your child cope with life’s changes and protect their health.

Communicate with your kids to reduce stress.

Not talking about something can make your child worry more. Parents and caregivers can help kids avoid the harmful effects of stress by talking with them about the pandemic in a calm, sensitive and age-appropriate way to help them cope. Making space for them to share their feelings with you and ask questions can help provide much-needed reassurance. Check out this guide from Child Mind Institute on how to talk to your kids about coronavirus for more tips and ideas.

Kids feel good when they know they are helping solve a problem. Help them understand why they are not able to see their friends and loved ones right now — because staying at home helps keep everyone healthy. Tell them there are things they can do to help – hand washing, covering coughs and sneezes, and wearing a mask when they go out. Provide encouragement by telling your kids how proud you are of them for being part of the solution.

Connect with your kids to reduce stress.

These moments are opportunities for connection. Turn off the TV and other devices for quality time together making art, dancing, singing or reading at home. Help your kids maintain connections with friends and loved ones outside of the home by phone, video chat or letter writing. Nurturing relationships that make children feel safe can protect their brains and bodies from the harmful effects of stress and make them more resilient. When they have strong feelings, try to listen with calm kindness and remind them that they are not alone.

Kids are sensitive to emotional signals from their caregivers, so it is important for you to manage your stress first. Remember to be kind and compassionate with yourself. Creating time to care for yourself puts you in a better position to offer comfort and encouragement to your child when they need it most.

Ready for more tips for your child’s wellbeing during COVID-19? Stay tuned for Part Two: Structure is Soothing, and visit our COVID-19 resources page for more information.

How to Find Community Support and Stay Connected During COVID-19

While so many aspects of your life may be impacted by this pandemic, know that you are not alone. Many families are facing more hardship and emotional challenges than ever before. Fortunately, the San Mateo County community continues to come together to ensure our families are supported.

Whether you’re in need of resources related to basic needs, child care, emotional support or more, it’s okay to ask for help.

Basic Needs

If you or someone you know is in need of help with emergency financial assistance, food, housing, utilities and other basic needs, local organizations and agencies are prepared to connect people with the help they need. If figuring out where to begin feels overwhelming, you can start by calling 2-1-1 (or 800-273-6222) to explain your needs and get the information and referrals right for you.

Child Care

The lack of access to adequate child care while most programs are closed is forcing some families into impossible situations, especially for those who are essential workers. Do parents go to work or stay home to care for their child? Finding access to affordable and accessible child care is vital for many families and accessing child care is essential. 4Cs of San Mateo County is here to help families in need access child care. If you are an essential worker or qualify as part of an at-risk population (child receiving CPS services, at risk of abuse or neglect, experiencing homelessness or a child of a domestic violence survivor), you may qualify for an emergency child care subsidy.

Emotional Support

Consider talking to a trusted friend or family member. Learning to ask for help can be difficult but it can be so beneficial to helping you heal. There’s a good chance people close to you are facing similar challenges and these conversations can help bring these issues to light. The ability to lean on each other can go a long way to help navigate this crisis. If you find yourself needing additional support, there are other resources available for you to reach out to.

Looking for more? San Mateo County has compiled an extensive list of local resources for its residents to help cope with hardships brought on by COVID-19. You can also visit our COVID-19 resource page and social media channels for up-to-date information.

Stay tuned for more blogs with tips and information to support San Mateo County families during COVID-19 and beyond, and take a look back at our most recent post for self-care tips. 

Caring for Yourself to Care for Your Family

On any given day, especially during a global pandemic, self-care is probably the last thing on a parent’s mind. Balancing the responsibilities of family, household and career can make self-care feel out of reach altogether. However, now more than ever, making your own well-being a priority is the best gift you can give your family. Creating time to care for yourself puts you in a better position to offer comfort and encouragement to your child when they need it most.

Paying attention to your needs as an individual can help you best care for your child and caring for yourself can take on many different forms. Self-care may look like taking a few minutes to go on a walk, finding time to listen to some of your favorite music or simply taking a few moments to yourself to breathe. You can even consider incorporating some of these things into your schedule with your child, allowing you to practice self-care without needing to find separate time away from your kids.

As time and resources for self-care might be limited, or non-existent, we encourage you to practice caring for yourself in some accessible and time efficient way.

Keep Routines  

When possible, keeping routines for you and your child can be looked at as a form of self-care. Keeping some structure and normalcy can help prevent some of the stress that comes with the unknown of COVID-19. By keeping a routine, you may even be able to find an extra few minutes in the day for yourself to talk a walk or sit outside! But make sure to be kind to yourself if your routine doesn’t always go as planned.

Check-In With Yourself Daily

Practicing being compassionate with yourself is a great form of self-care, and one that can be done ongoing throughout the day. Being kind and patient with yourself, especially as we deal with the uncertainty of COVID-19, can help slow things down and can help you best care for those around you.

Reach Out

Do you have friends who are parents, or a family member you can talk to?  If you are feeling overwhelmed, try to take a few minutes to call, text or video chat someone you trust. Reaching out for support is an act of caring for you and your family.

Remember, supporting your emotional well-being is important to be able to support your child’s emotional well-being. You are deserving of the same love, patience and understanding that you provide your family with.

Visit our COVID-19 page for more information on self-care and other helpful resources for you and your family.

Child Care Was Always Essential

Written by Christine Padilla, Director of Build Up for San Mateo’s Children

San Mateo County, along with five neighboring counties, were the first in the nation to implement shelter-in-place due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We couldn’t be prouder of our local leadership. As we led then, I hope we will continue to lead to ensure all our communities recover together. Through this difficult time, the child care industry has risen to navigate through this public health crisis. We are certain that one thing rings true; child care is, and always has been, essential. Child care is critical community infrastructure that is connected to every aspect of our economy and overall community wellbeing. Across San Mateo County, we have a growing shortage of child care and preschool spaces; close to 11,000 spaces are needed for children ages birth to four years old, with a projected need of 14,000 by 2025. Now more than ever, we must work to preserve all existing spaces, or this already fragile sector may not be there to help us recover.

While we know disparities have always existed in our county, this pandemic has heightened the awareness of the vulnerabilities in our community. The child care sector has long been overstrained and undervalued with predominantly women-owned small businesses and nonprofits working to meet the needs of the community. Child care is costly to operate and families often struggle to pay for it, while providers carve out at best a “living wage”. To make it through recent closures and economic hardships, child care providers are in need of substantial support. Without support, families may find their provider unable to reopen when they return to work.

We greatly appreciate the initial investments made through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to help mitigate the impact of the current public health crisis on children, families, and child care providers. The emergency funding provided through the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), along with other supports provided in the package, such as unemployment insurance provisions and loans for small businesses, are a critical first step in helping child care providers and families survive the growing public health and economic crisis caused by the spread of COVID-19. As the scope and magnitude of the situation evolves, it is clear that additional focused support is needed that reflects the child care provider’s essential status in providing care to the children of front-line workers and serving as the foundation for future recovery.

Child care’s essential status deserves and needs dedicated relief funding, with flexibility for even the smallest center owners and family child care home-based providers who may not have accountants or financial advisors to assist with accessing benefits in the relief package. Early education advocates are asking Congress to include $50 billion in emergency funding to address the specific needs of early care and education providers, families and children in a fourth relief bill. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted a long-time underinvestment in child care infrastructure. Our community and economy need child care providers to function, and now is the time to rise up and support this unique sector.

While legislators consider additional stimulus packages, locally, we have a rare opportunity to not only repair, but reimagine a sustainable child care system for San Mateo County. Now is the time to do what our county does best: collaborate, coordinate and support each other. I hope this call for federal funding sparks local government and philanthropy to work towards a timelier solution to not only preserve, but build up, our invaluable child care system.

Christine Padilla is the director of Build Up for San Mateo’s Children, a cross-sector initiative designed to grow and improve the supply of child care and preschool facilities in San Mateo County.