They say it takes a village to raise a child, but how exactly does that work when the village is at least 6 feet away or, even more likely, online only?
The lockdowns put in place over the last few months have closed schools, daycares, playgrounds and just about anywhere else a child might go outside of their home. While this could lead to more, often coveted together time for families, it also means parents are taking on new challenges. Many continue to work full and part-time jobs from home while also helping to facilitate online learning for school-age kids and/or wrangling young children throughout the day.
Then, you add in emotional well-being. Cut off from grandparents, teachers and friends, kids are trying to comprehend what’s going on and how to get by without a significant portion of their support system. Depending on their age, they might understand too little or too much. And yes, there are resources aplenty to help talk to kids about COVID-19, but it is still difficult for parents to do so, particularly as they attempt to take care of themselves. Remember, no matter the age, we are all struggling.
To top it all off, there’s coronavirus. But, enough about that.
All this to say, pandemic-era parenting is a new kind of balancing act with unprecedented responsibilities and waves of emotion from guilt to exhaustion to contentment to gratitude.
If you are a parent - as many of us at the R. J. Leonard Foundation are - you’re not alone.
This is hard.
May is mental health awareness month. And this year, this month seems particularly poignant.
We are currently all coping with the impacts of COVID-19, not just socially, professionally and - for some - physically, but emotionally as well. Our mental health is being challenged by the pandemic. That’s not to say that we will all experience or respond to this time in the same way. As many have pointed out, we are in the same storm but different boats. However, we will all be impacted, and we need to be aware of that for our own and others’ wellbeing.
It won’t be until long after COVID-19 has passed that we truly understand the effects this pandemic has had on mental health. But what we know today is that many will struggle with anxiety, depression, grief and other trauma-related issues. Many are struggling with them right now.
Thus, it is even more important that you take the time to check in not only with your loved ones but with yourself through this experience. Know the signs of depression and anxiety. Identify how you typically cope with stress and create opportunities for self care and self awareness. If you find yourself having a difficult time, reach out to your support system. And don’t be afraid to ask for help.
There are resources available and people who want to help. It is vital that you know that even as we remain physically distant, we are not isolated.
National and Local Resources:
National Alliance on Mental Illness Helpline - 1-800-950-6264
SAMHSA’s Disaster Distress Helpline - 1-800-985-5990
National Domestic Violence Hotline - 1-800-799-7233
Pennsylvania Crisis Textline - Text PA to 741-741
Bucks County Behavioral Health Helpline - 215-399-5681
Over the past two Sundays - April 19 and April 26 - RJLF came together for an online workshop series on self-care. It was the first time we had been together, albeit virtually, as a group since the holiday party in December, and it was a joy to see and hear from everyone.
Our presenter was Allison Moore of Box 52 Coaching and Consulting. A leadership/career coach with an impressive background working with young adults in foster care, Allison spoke with us about stress, self-care, strengths and habits. During the first session, we learned what stress does to the body and talked about what self-care looks like and how it might be a little different now, with stay-at-home orders in place.
In week two, Allison challenged the group to identify areas in which they wanted to improve. Overwhelmingly, RJLF voted for health and wellness - a topic of particular interest as so many of us stay at home fighting the urge to eat salty snacks or bake sweet treats, like banana bread. Almost instantly, a Fellow offered up an idea to help us all stay on track and support each other in health (that idea is in the works; stay tuned!).
The workshops were a wonderful opportunity not only for all of us to come together but also to be reminded of how important it is to be aware of ourselves, our response to stressful situations, such as COVID-19, and the habits we form/break/maintain throughout.
We are so grateful to our Fellows, Mentors, Board Members and Allison for spending their Sunday mornings with us.
We look forward to more online - and hopefully in-person - workshops this year!
On March 27, the federal government passed a stimulus package, allotting $1200 to every individual making less than $75,000 annually and couples making less than $150,000 annually. Parents/guardians will receive an additional $500 for every child 16 or younger. Direct deposit payments went out on April 15, with paper checks expected to follow in the weeks after.
The payments are meant to encourage activity within the economy, whether that means paying bills or making an impromptu purchase (online). But for people struggling to make ends meet, whether they’re out of work, facing reduced hours or just not getting paid enough, $1200 won’t go very far. In fact according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, $1200 will cover less than two weeks’ expenses for most Americans (Check out the graphics below to find out just how much it costs to live in Bucks and Montgomery Counties monthly).
And those two weeks don’t take into account the added costs that have come with stay at home orders. Even as hours, wages and job stability have gone down, living expenses are going up. Here’s how:
This doesn’t mean that the stimulus payments don’t help at all. They do. However, they aren’t a cure-all. We encourage you to look for additional ways to help your neighbors and community at this time, while remaining physically distant. And if you need help, ask. We’re here for you, too.
Many of us, if we’re lucky, have spent the past few (and the next few) weeks working from home. Many more are struggling to make ends meet as they face layoffs in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic. Still others are going into work - into offices, medical facilities, grocery stores and other businesses deemed essential. These essential employees are helping to keep the rest of us afloat.
One such employee is RJLF’s very own Fellow “Joseph”. Joseph is a youth counselor at a residential facility, where he works 40 hours per week. He says that while his one-on-one work with the kids continues much as it did prior to COVID-19, there have been some noticeable changes at the facility. “All of the employees have to wear masks or they’re sent home. Your temperature is taken before you come into the building. If it’s over 100, you get sent home.” He adds that everything has to be sanitized, a lot.
For the youth at the facility, life has gone virtual. Their schooling and visits with families are now online. No visitors are permitted within the building. There are no community activities. And even their interactions with each other have lessened. Rather than eating as a large group, the kids now eat lunch 10 at a time. “No one can sit [right] next to each other,” says Joseph.
When asked if he’s nervous going into work still and what it feels like to be deemed an essential employee, Joseph says that his main worry is that if he gets infected, he may unknowingly infect others. But overall, he feels lucky.
“You feel blessed to be working; you appreciate it,” he says. “A lot of people at my job, they’re the only people working right now in their families.
“We aren’t as important as the doctors and nurses, but we are trying to take care of kids.”
RJLF is so proud of Joseph and incredibly privileged to know him. Keep doing the work that you do Joseph, and thank you.
I am sure many of us can look back over the course of our lives and identify several milestones that shaped who we are today. When you think about these milestones think about the adults that were there: a parent, a coach, a teacher, a trusted friend. Now imagine navigating those milestones without them: high school, college, the transition to adulthood. Scary huh? This is often the reality for young people in foster care.
If you have ever considered becoming mentor, what has held you back? You don’t need any special skills, it doesn’t cost you anything or take much time. You just need to be you! There are countless young people who have aged out of foster care in our community that need that connection, that support, that one person that believes in them.
So are you ready? Give us a call, we would love to help connect you with that young person. Mentoring relationships are a shared opportunity for learning and growth. Many of our mentors feel that they have gained more from the relationship than they ever imagined. #MentoringMonth
Describing Joyce as busy is quite the understatement! She is a very active student at Montgomery County Community College, immersing herself in the community on campus. She is a Student Ambassador and the host of a successful campus radio show called "The Afternoon Groove." She was also in a recent dance showcase and spoke on a panel at orientation for new students. Joyce is completing the work for her associate degree this month. In the Spring, she will be starting at Temple University! She is already starting to get involved. She recently attended the ASEZ Student Leadership Summit.
Joyce is also a dedicated and loving mother who makes sure to share her desire to help other people with her two beautiful children. Joyce and her daughter recently participated in the International WeLoveU Foundation's walk to support relief efforts in Mozambique. Her son is excelling in school. He has surpassed his grade level in reading. Her daughter has also expressed an interest in following in her mother's dancing footsteps, having asked to start ballet this year.
Joyce's former Rapid Rehousing Coach, with whom she worked for two years, shared these beautiful words: Joyce always worked so hard, often holding down two jobs while going to school full time. In spite of setbacks, she always was able to reevaluate her situation and make changes when necessary. She's a wonderful mother and is devoted to her children. They are always the first thing she worries about. She has risen from some very difficult circumstances to have confidence that she can make a better life for herself and her children, even if it's still a difficult road ahead. She has faced many challenges along the way but has always had the strength to rebound and find a way to make things work. She's also an active member of her church, which is an important part of her life, and devotes time to working with the youth there.
Our RJLF family kicked off our holiday season celebrating together. There was great company, delicious food and lots of happy little ones! Please help us to continue to make the holidays special for our fellows by fulfilling their Amazon wishlists, it's not too late!