Week 2: Ways for Kids To Serve Others; More Tips for “Stay at Home”

We’ve gotten through our second week of “shelter-in-place” (Day 15) and we’re still talking to each other.

And it’s official. Our local schools (California Bay Area) will extend closure through May 1 to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Given Trump’s recent extension of federal social distancing guidelines, we expect that the state of California will maintain its stay-at-home recommendations past Easter.

So we’re “shelter in place” for a longer period than expected, making the best of our situation. We’re getting used to our new normal.

We watched a mid-day satellite launch together. That wouldn’t have happened under normal circumstances.

The routines and expectations set in place at the beginning are paying off — everyone pitches in when needed with minimal complaint, we have dinner together every night and the kitchen is reasonably clean. Each of us has our own schedule during the day which gives everyone “space” so we’re not in danger of seeing “too much” of each other.

In the workplace, the best advice I’ve heard is “lead with empathy”. It’s a stressful time, everyone has been impacted in some way, and unless your company makes PPE (personal protective equipment) or cleaning supplies, it’s probably not going to be “business as usual” for a while. Many companies in all sectors (services, hospitality, retail, products, professional services) are hurting, too. Not able to make payroll, laying off employees. We all have to be as empathetic as we can right now.

Although not everyone in the country is under mandatory “stay at home” orders, the best rationale I’ve heard this week for being conservative and minimizing external contact boils down to two points:

  1. If you are exposed to others who are not being as careful as you are, you put everyone you are living with at risk.
  2. Under normal circumstances, getting COVID-19 might not be life-threatening for the average person. However, the surge in cases, lack of equipment and potential for exposure makes even a low-risk visit to the hospital a riskier venture at this time. So it is best to be as careful as possible to ensure we won’t require medical services.

We’re doing ok, so it’s time for us to shift to more of an external focus. The extra time we’ve had in our day gives us a chance to talk about the impact of this crisis on others and how we can help. I asked each child to research and come up with an idea they’d like to follow up on to help. Here are ideas we are working on:

  • Foodbank donations. We’ll call this week to find out what they need most and add it to our shopping list
  • Sewing masks. We researched “cloth vs. disposable drape” to learn which would make the most effective masks and which local hospital we might support. (GetUsPPE.org lists facilities and groups in need of personal protective equipment donations nationwide)
  • Face shields. We looked into 3D printing face shields, but the pattern is too big for our printer. We’ll keep thinking about this one.
  • Animal shelters. We are working on fostering older kittens to help relieve the load on volunteers.
  • Cheering up those who are isolated. The elderly are having a hard time, especially if they do not fully understand what’s going on. Grandparents are our only audience for now, but we’re thinking about ways to reach more people.
  • Sharing love and compassion outside the family. We continue to check in electronically with friends and extended family across the country, who are experiencing varying levels of “stay at home”.

We’ve also received other suggestions about ways kids can help:

  • Offer to grocery shop for neighbors (a family on our street is offering to help elderly neighbors)
  • Care packages for teachers (drop off at school for teachers to pick up)
  • Students share pics (with teachers) of what distance learning looks like for them (my son’s teachers have also made videos to cheer up students)
  • “Popup” community google forms (this one is related to PPE but there may be other “community needs” forms for your local region, check with your local news station).
  • Blood drives at the American Red Cross (for older kids). Call first to confirm hours.
  • If you’re a medical student, your peers are helping in the Rhode Island area. And some are graduating early to help as interns.

The virus is now hitting closer to home. We’ve learned that we are currently only 1–2 degrees of separation from diagnosed cases, affecting family friends in NY, NJ, Florida, and CA. We hear each day about healthcare workers who are lacking protective gear and falling ill. There are many groups in need of community support right now.

I’ve found that people are trying to keep their spirits up by sharing resources, advice, and ideas. Thank you to all of you who responded to my request for input.

Here are tips related to food & safety:

  • Tips for “cleaning groceries” from a doctor in Michigan (How to Unpack at 6:00, Washing Fruit at 9:00, Tips for Takeout at 10:30)
  • Advice fact sheets for Food Safety, Dining Out and Grocery Shopping from NC State (based on CDC, FDA, and USDA; includes Spanish translations)
  • What to do if someone gets sick (CDC recommendations).

A March 24 interview with a doctor on the front lines in NY, answers questions about COVID-19:

  • 10:00 — explains his reasons why we should wear masks. Bandanas can help you to avoid touching your face.
  • 18:30 — what to do when someone in your family gets sick. 22:30 exceptions when you have someone in a high-risk category living with you.
  • 38:00–40:00 — experience with COVID-19 patients when they come to the hospital. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is being used more than Ibuprophen.

How to protect yourself if you live in a multi-story building:

  • Try to be the only one in the elevator or take the stairs.
  • Wear gloves to avoid touching elevator buttons, doorknobs and other common surfaces that others touch. Use disinfectant wipes and purell when possible.
  • Make a point to go outside at least once a day to keep your spirits up. But try to go out at times when others might not be to lessen the amount of potential contact with others.

More free resources:

  • Even though physical libraries are closed, many public libraries are processing cards online so you can borrow audiobooks and access databases from their websites.
  • Kids can learn a lot on Khan Academy and Youtube. Teens can learn Python with free code camp.
  • If parents need advice about coping with personal challenges during this crisis, your local community can help. Our school district sent this hotline out to all families as a resource.

If your kids need a change of pace, these recommendations can help kids explore existing interests or develop new skills:

  • If they’re tired of watching videos on YouTube try free Coursera or low-cost Udemy courses.
  • If they love the performing arts, there are a lot of Broadway artists teaching online right now. Some of their classes can be low cost or free (voice, acting, tap, college audition prep, etc).
  • Seek out leadership and life skills courses available for teens. Now could be the time to explore these resources while they have the time.
  • High school students (especially juniors applying to colleges in the fall) who are mourning the loss of their end of school celebrations and activities, could use this time to develop a unique edge for their college applications.

Onward, to survive week 3! For all of you who are potentially dreading another week, here is a healthy parent perspective shared by our local school principal.

“Stay at Home” week #2

Catch up on our shelter-in-place in California: Week #1, Week #3, Week #4, Week #5, Week #6, Week #7.

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