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Mendo Lake Family Life

Ukiah Unified’s Super Reads Children’s Books on Facebook

By Deb Kubin, UUSD Superintendent

I would never have thought that I would be writing about a pandemic, yet here we are. We are in unprecedented times. We have so many things to think about and deal with that it can be overwhelming. We’re in uncharted waters, and I want everyone to know my positive thoughts and heart go out to our students, families, staff, and community.

One of our highest priorities is to make sure kids feel safe and cared for. In light of our current situation, physical safety has been at the forefront of everyone’s minds. The longer we shelter-in-place and children and parents attend to remote learning, the more attention we have to give to the emotional safety of our students. When we are physically attending school, our district has protocols and procedures in place to meet our students’ social-emotional needs. With students sheltered-in-place at home, we are in a new arena in terms of continuing to meet our students’ needs.

We are offering support through remote counseling (more on that later). And in addition to that support, there are things we as parents and guardians can do at home.

You can reassure your children that, along with local health and school officials, you are working hard to keep them safe and healthy. Let them know that the children in our community are our greatest treasure and that we will do everything we can to keep them safe.

Children also need factual, age-appropriate information about what is happening and how we are working to slow the spread of COVID-19. Teaching children positive preventative measures (hand washing and adhering to the shelter-in-place order), talking with them about their fears, and giving them some sense of control over their reality can help reduce anxiety.

A balance between providing accurate information, while at the same time not causing undue stress, is critical to the emotional health of our children. It’s challenging to decide what to talk to your kids about and when. I struggle with it every day only to quickly find out they know as much or more than I do because of their voracious digital appetites.

Here are just a few things to consider when talking with your children about COVID-19:

• It is essential to stay calm, listen, and offer reassurance.

• Children will react to and follow your verbal and nonverbal reactions. What you say and do about COVID-19, current prevention efforts, and related events can either increase or decrease your children’s anxiety.

• Children may need extra attention from you and may want to talk about their concerns, fears, and questions. They must know they have someone who will listen to them and make time for them.

• Tell them you love them and give them plenty of affection.

• Consider limiting TV time or access to information on the Internet and social media. When children are present, try to avoid watching or listening to upsetting information.

• Keep a regular schedule. It’s reassuring and promotes physical health.

If your child is having difficulty dealing with this stressful situation, don’t feel alone. Do not hesitate to reach out for help. If your children are in the Ukiah Unified School District (UUSD), you can call your child’s school or email the school counselors for support. It can be more challenging to communicate during this remote-learning period, so if you are unable to reach your child’s school, call UUSD’s Remote Learning Hotline at 472-5003. Additionally, the County of Mendocino has a Warm Line for community members to call for non-crisis, emotional support: 472-2311. And finally, in a crisis, call the Mendocino County Crisis Hotline at 855-838-0404, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The UUSD staff is here for you during this difficult time. I am reading a children’s book every week and posting it in the videos section of the Ukiah Unified School District Facebook page. One of the first books I read was The Invisible String by Patrice Karst (DeVorss & Co., 2000). I chose this book because it talks about the invisible string that connects our hearts even when we cannot be physically together. Our hearts will always be connected in our strong, caring community. It is crucial that we take care of each other during this unprecedented time. 

Deb Kubin is the Ukiah Unified School District Superintendent.