A new job always has a learning curve and unexpected challenges, but I thought I was prepared. After all, I have worked in the La Plata County Extension Office for nine years, and in my youth, I spent 10 years as a member of La Plata County 4-H.
I felt sure I would sail into my new position, never anticipating the onset of a global pandemic. So, instead of planning overnight spring and summer camps, I am learning how to run a virtual office. Fortunately, for me, our 4-H program is full of wonderful and understanding people. They have patiently given me time to adjust to unexpected tests in my new position, and they have adapted beyond my expectations. I am so grateful to them.
Each of us has seen our life change significantly in just weeks. We are all experiencing firsthand disappointment and disillusion that coronavirus has brought, along with concern, confusion and fear. Know that the distress you are feeling is OK, normal and expected. The first thing we all need to do is give ourselves time to adjust. If you are trying to do your best every day, you are rocking this! Keep it up. Your most important job at this moment is to take care of the health and safety of yourself and your loved ones.
Remember too that children react to stress differently because they often can’t find the words to explain how they feel. Sometimes, they complain about a tummy ache or they act out more than usual. Some may have trouble sleeping, while others may not want to get out of bed. If this is happening, it’s probably because they are having trouble coping with their current reality.
Give them a little more leeway and check in with them daily to have open conversations about how they are feeling. Reassure them that we will get through this, and they will get to see their friends in person again. Try to keep regular routines and include a lot of time for active fun. Some of my 4-H families start each day by saying five things they are grateful for. A positive focus is a great way to reframe your challenges.
Reaching out to loved ones is very important right now. My family and I do a weekly Zoom session, and I cannot tell you how much this has improved my mental health. It is heartwarming to see their smiling faces and laugh together. If virtual sessions aren’t an option, call, text, email or you can go old-fashion and send a letter.
No matter how you do it, reach out to your friends and family. If you don’t need it, maybe they do. For those of you who are looking to make a positive difference in the world, write a letter or make a card for an elderly person in assisted living. Our elderly are feeling the effects of social distancing as much or more than the rest of us.
We will get through this and when we do, let’s pledge to hug our loved ones a little tighter, smile at strangers more often and love our lives to our fullest ability.
Angela Fountain is the La Plata County 4-H youth development agent. Reach her at email@example.com or 382-6460.