Marsha LaVerne answers calls at the Family Development Center in Roseburg. Photo: Mandy Elder

Parenting in the time of COVID-19

May 6, 2020: Public health experts continue to remind us to keep our distance — at least six feet apart as a way to reduce the spread of COVID-19. 

But Douglas County parenting educator Marsha LaVerne cautions that social distancing does not mean emotional distancing. “These are stressful times,” she says. “Physical isolation, economic instability and health concerns are stretching some families’ abilities to cope.” To lessen stress, she says, “we still need to maintain relationships.”  

LaVerne, program director at the Family Development Center in Roseburg, understands well the risk that stress can pose to families. The Family Development Center works with parents and children to strengthen families and prevent child abuse and neglect. Currently, the center offers a variety of services, including virtual classrooms and outreach.

Calls triple in the last month

In the last month, LaVerne says the number of calls from stressed parents to the center has tripled. “We used to process 10 to 12 referrals a month. In the last few weeks, we responded to 30 or 40 calls.” The center connects callers with a menu of early childhood and mental health services, as well as food, diapers, and referrals to other organizations including Take Root Parenting and Community Uplift.

One of the best coping methods, she says, is staying connected to friends and family. Simple acts of kindness — calling a loved one, checking on a neighbor, sharing a friendly word — can help lower stress levels. Kindness benefits both the giver and the receiver. “People need to know: We see you. We care about you,” she says.

In addition, LaVerne offers a check list that she uses with families who need to bring calmness to their lives. The list is part of the Parents’ Guide to Coping with the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Crisis from the University of Michigan:

  • Accept your feelings: It’s okay to be sad, mad or scared. This is really a hard time.
  • Practice gratitude: Jot down a note, post on social media or make a list of things for which you are grateful.
  • Care for your body: Try to eat healthy, exercise and get plenty of sleep.
  • Stay connected: Find creative ways to stay socially connected (writing letters, online video chats, phone calls).
  • Take time to relax: Find things that help you feel calm. These might include prayer, mindfulness, a warm shower, looking out the window, reading, listening to music.
  • Connect with beauty: Every day, try to experience something beautiful.

So, keep yourselves six feet apart, LaVerne says.  “But also look for ways to emotionally connect. We need to be good human beings and take care of each other. Be kind.”

About the author: Robin Hill-Dunbar is a program officer for The Ford Family Foundation. She helps shape and execute the Foundation’s strategies to support strong families and healthy children of all ages. 

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