Camp Fire is part of the #InvestinKids campaign, a movement by 12 leading youth organizations to encourage people to give their voice, time and dollars to our country’s youth. And we’re all having to get creative about how to invest in kids when we’re social distancing to protect each other from the coronavirus. You can always invest your dollars, but when it comes to investing our voices and time…we’re all figuring out how to do that at a distance.
Social distancing has drastically changed everyday life for most Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some families with children are spending much more time together at home. Other parents are spending long hours providing needed community services while family and friends help care for their out-of-school children. Teachers and positive youth development staff around the country are discovering how to keep kids engaged and growing remotely in real-time.
What hasn’t changed? The fact that kids need us.
Social distancing doesn’t dim our need for positive relationships. Social scientists say that thriving kids—and adults!—all have one thing in common: strong, supportive relationships. Research shows that children who have a network of stable connections with the adults in their lives have better academic outcomes, higher social-emotional skills and lower rates of risky behavior.
But not every kid has that supportive web of positive adult relationships. And now that many children are out of school and isolated at home, what web there was may be stretched thin.
Studies conducted long before the pandemic showed that 22 percent of middle and high school students reported having no supportive relationships with adults in their lives. Eighteen percent said they just had one.
Caring adults can step into that gap—at a safe distance!—to make sure children are supported during this time. At Camp Fire, we’ve appreciated the Search Institute’s research on “developmental relationships”—or positive, supportive relationships with adults that help kids thrive. True to form, they quickly came out with a checklist of 19 things adults can do to support kids during the COVID-19 crisis.
Based on their Developmental Relationships Framework, their list is organized by the five elements supportive relationships include: Express Care, Challenge Growth, Provide Support, Share Power, and Expand Possibilities. (Get their handy framework PDF here in Spanish and English!) Inspired by their list, we wanted to add some more ideas of our own:
Here are 10 more ways to #investinkids while social distancing:
Express Care: Show kids that they matter to you.
- Be Dependable: Set up a regular video call with a young relative, mentee or close friends’ kids to check-in. Keep that appointment!
- Listen: Give the kids in your life time to express their concerns, worries and fears about the pandemic and social distancing without interrupting. It’s tempting to cut them off early to assure them everything will be OK. Let them talk through their thoughts first. Let them know you hear them, then reassure them.
Challenge Growth: Push kids to keep getting better.
- Hold Each Other Accountable: Have a similar goal to one of the kids in your life? Be accountability buddies! Maybe you both want to draw every day. Or move more. Or take turns calling elderly relatives. Set a check-in time to report your progress to each other, so you both stay on track.
- Reflect: Camp Fire integrates reflection practices into our programs. Reflection is even more important in times of stress and big changes. Model reflection skills—and a growth mindset—by sharing what you’re learning during social distancing. Have you made any mistakes? Have you uncovered something new about yourself or the people you’re isolating with? What are you feeling grateful for right now? Reflect on it all with the kids in your life. You can use these three easy questions to have a reflection conversation. You can also use them as journaling prompts!
- What? What happened? What are the facts of your experience?
- So What? What did you feel? What did other people feel?
- Now What? What did the experience mean to you? To other people? What will you change in the future? Is there anything you need or want to do right now?
Provide Support: Help kids complete tasks and achieve goals.
- Navigate: Kids’ lives are just as disrupted by social distancing as ours are. Help them brainstorm solutions to their frustrations. Are you a freelancer? Share your staying-productive tips with a kid struggling with distance learning at home. Are you good at long-distance friendships? Tell a teen who is missing their friends how you stay in touch with yours. You probably have more areas of expertise than you think—be a guide to a kid during this very weird time.
- Advocate: Help the kids in your community get what they need. Help out-of-school kids from low-income families get access to healthy meals. Donate to your local food bank. Give to the Center for Disaster Philanthropy’s COVID-19 Response Fund. Keep an eye out for friends’ and neighbors’ pandemic-related GoFundMe campaigns.
Share Power: Treat kids with respect and give them a say.
- Collaborate: Team up on creative projects: Write a story by alternating writing lines. Make a music video by combining funny phone footage. Mail a growing art collage back-and-forth. It doesn’t matter what it is as long as you’re making it together!
- Let me lead: If you’re connecting with your favorite kids at a distance, let them take the lead in how your remote relationship progresses. Ask them how often they want to connect and what method they want to use. Ask them how they want to spend your time together. Give them a sense of control during an otherwise chaotic time.
Expand Possibilities: Connect kids with people and places that broaden their worlds.
- Inspire: Have a sparks conversation with a kid in your life: What are they passionate about? What pushes them to learn? What gives them a purpose? Then go through your contact list to see if you know anybody who can help them (virtually) explore their spark.
- Broaden Their Horizons: Make your next regular check-in with your favorite kid an adventure: Go on a virtual museum tour together. Explore a national park from your respectives couches. “Visit” a zoo together. Explore space. Go to a show.
Need more ideas? Check in with our #investinkids partner organizations to see how other positive youth development organizations are supporting young people during this unprecedented pandemic.