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Mental Health Matters: June 1


Dear Ellis Families,

I hope you are well. As I mentioned in my last blog post, I will be going on maternity leave in the next week. While I am beyond excited (and nervous too), I am also mindful I will not be there to support Ellis in our reopening. Knowing that, I want to include loads of resources to support you and your family for the return to Ellis.


As I read The Sloth Who Slowed Us Down, I took some time to reflect. In this story, a sloth comes to live with the ‘speediest family’ in the world. As you can imagine, he slows them right on down. Living at a new, slower pace, the family has more time to talk and share activities together in a deeper, more connected way. I thought about how COVID closures have forced many of us to slow down, too.

While many continue to struggle with financial burdens or mental health concerns—what have we learned from COVID? I recognize that everyone’s experience has been different. How can we take this experience and glean what we can from it? Perhaps it was more time spent reading together, or taking time to learn more about one another. Maybe it was learning to let go of things that previously seemed too hard. Maybe you became more self-compassionate and self-forgiving. Perhaps you discovered the best workflow for your family—How can these things continue? We can still remember to slow down a little, even as the world starts to move at a fast pace again. It is empowering to think about how we can shape the new ‘normal’ for ourselves.


I will very sincerely miss seeing the children while I’m away. But I am confident Ellis will do everything we can to support both you and your child. Our partners at STRIVE and CSEFEL will help plan an intentional return, mindful of the children’s emotional wellbeing and physical health. Margaret Olem, of CSEFEL, will be consulting with the Ellis Reopening Task Force, and our partners at STRIVE will provide a webinar for parents to prepare as well.


Both partners will host a training for teachers to help them prepare to address the emotional aspects of reopening for children and staff. I am confident our teachers and program leaders will offer so much love, support, nurturing and patience as Ellis returns- just as they always have.


Thank you and be well. I look forward to seeing you in September.

Jenn

What Comes Next

This article is from Zero to Three has tips beneficial for all children for getting back into a routine and continuing to be empathetic in transitions.


You may observe behavioral changes in your child as they return to Ellis—this is normal! Children are resilient, and with their teacher’s and caregivers’ support, they will adjust in time. If you do feel concerned about your adjusting back to Ellis, never hesitate to connect with their teachers or our leadership team to discuss additional supports.


Resources for Helping Children Understand COVID

Many therapists, health and child experts have produced a multitude of great materials on how to explain COVID and how to be safe to children. Here are some resources to help:

Here is an excellent social story to help children understand why we are wearing masks.


This short story (for ages 7 and under, and available in multiple languages) helps children understand the most basic aspects of COVID, what they can do to be safe, and how to think about their feelings around the pandemic.


This gentle and very cute video helps children understand social distancing.


This resource was created by two African American doctors to help children of color see themselves represented in the narrative of understanding COVID, and to understand self care and mental health during this time.


Center on the Social Emotional Foundations for Early Learners (CSEFEL) Resources

CSEFEL is our partner in promoting social emotional literacy within our classrooms at Ellis. As we get closer to reopening, they have provided support as we reimagine teaching various social skills like sharing and reading facial expressions under new and different guidelines. Their team has wonderfully modified some of their resources we use at Ellis that can be used at home to help prepare for their return. Check out their resource library to find these materials. I recommend “We Can Be Problem Solvers at Home” and “Tucker the Turtle Takes Time to Tuck and Think at Home,” both available in multiple languages.


Breathing Techniques

In the next few weeks, practice the breathing and mindfulness techniques I’ve shared to help prepare your children remember accessible coping skills when they return to Ellis. Remember, it’s best to practice these skills when they are calm, and to help model the strategies yourself.


Take a look at Rosita from Sesame Street practicing one of the first breathing techniques we learned: Belly Breathing.


A Moment of Zen

A video of a meerkat getting a little belly rub. Nothing more, nothing less- your moment of Zen.


Mental Health and Parent Support

  • Vital Villages will continue to host a Mental Health Storytime on Tuesday evenings at 6:30 p.m.

  • Fair Foods is a wonderful community resource that helps provide fresh produce to families. With multiple sites throughout the city, Fair Foods has provided many with healthy options for quite some time. In response to COVID they have recently started reopening sites and are adhering to safety measures.

  • Project Bread: Managing mental health is that much harder when you are unable to meet your basic needs. If you are experiencing food insecurity please contact Project Bread for assistance.

  • FoodSource Hotline counselors refer callers to food resources in their community as well as provides information about school meals, summer meal sites for kids, elder meals programs, and SNAP. Call: 1-800-645-8333 or TTY 1-800-377-1292, Open Mon-Fri 8am-7pm, Saturday 10am-2pm.

  • Parental Stress Line: 800-632-8188. Counselors are there to listen to your concerns and problem-solve with you. 24/7, free and confidential.

  • Boston Emergency Services Team (BEST Team): 800-981-4357. A mental health emergency hotline for crisis evaluation and treatment if your child has become a danger to themselves or others in the home.

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