Though it may feel like it, the coronavirus has not stopped everything, including time. The clock still ticks toward new days and, more importantly, new birthdays. While some may welcome a celebratory distraction, many transition-age youth in foster care and related programs view their birthdays with a heightened sense of anxiety. They face aging out of their safety nets at a time when little is available to them, from jobs to education.
Such is the case for one of RJLF’s newest Fellows. Ana is currently in an aftercare program through Tabor Children Services that subsidizes her rent. When she turns 21 in June, Ana will no longer receive financial assistance and will be on her own for all of her bills. Though she has been working diligently to prepare for this transition, the COVID-19 lockdowns set her back.
We asked Ana to share with us what it’s been like as a transition-age youth through the coronavirus pandemic. See below.
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!