Support for Youth and Families During Pandemic Times
New England Friends have a rich history of supporting children, teens, and families to draw upon as we find new ways to respond to the current moment. We remind ourselves that each of us is responding differently to this particular time depending on our past experiences and current circumstances. Some of our families will need tangible help. Others—especially young people—will need emotional and spiritual support. Tending to the hearts and spirits of our children in times of crisis can sustain them through the current one and profoundly shape their access to God's comfort and assistance in the future. All of us can use gentle reminders to draw upon prayer and centering practices to lessen fears and increase hope and assurance that a Love beyond all understanding is always available.
Simple acts of friendship and connection should never be discounted, even when expressed remotely via phone, internet, mail, or waves from the sidewalk. The compassion and loving presence which faith communities extend to young people during this time can be a powerful message to them and to their families. As we distance ourselves socially, it is even more important for all of us to feel that we belong to a community, that we are not alone.
At any age, we are empowered when we feel that we can do something to make a situation better. One aspect of supporting our children and youth is to involve them in helping others in authentic ways. A child who loves to draw can be asked to make a birthday card for an isolated meeting member. A middle school-er with a reputation for bad jokes can make a video and share it with the meeting. A teen with good organizing skills can make phone calls to check in on Friends regarding needs for groceries, errands, or transportation. This is an opportunity for all of us to ask for what we need and to ask each other, before we are asked, How can I help? While doing what we can, we can also live into the paradox that being apart is one of the most loving things we can do for each other right now.
Families may be reluctant or too stretched to ask for support from Meetings. Abrupt changes in school and work schedules, financial stresses, interrupted family supports, and the fears of illness can cumulatively challenge our spiritual cores and inner tap roots. Regularly reaching out to them, rather than waiting for a request during this time, will be heard as Love in Motion. Friends' responses can make a significant difference in the combined household stress as well as their relationships to the Divine.
Below are a few more resources that may be helpful. We will continue to add to this in the coming days.
If you are interested in being part of an on-going conversation with Quaker youth workers and religious educators about support for Quaker youth at this time, you may wish to join the Facebook Group "Valiant Together: Sharing Quaker Religious Education Support and Resources During COVID-19", which is hosted by the Quaker Religious Education Collaborative.
Compassionate advice for teens and adults from a group of therapists from Mid-Coast Maine, shared with permission.
Growing Collection of Talking Points, Quaker Ed Resources, & Online Programs for Youth during COVID-19
Some ideas for helping calm and center busy minds and bodies by Gretchen Baker-Smith
Practical suggestions for teachers, parents, and caregivers from Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence
Wash your hands while singing this song!