Practicing our values, from Baby Raven Reads
By Tess Olympia
SHI Education Program Manager
Suddenly, we are home with our children, all day every day. How do we shift to a daily life of “social distancing” with infants and young children? Let’s take advantage of this time at home to practice our values.
Haa Latseení, Íitl’ Dagwiigáay, Na Gatlleedm
Strength of body, mind and spirit
1. Take care of yourself
Number one priority is you. Practice deep breathing, carve out time to be alone, give yourself permission to do something you love to do, just for you. Brush your teeth, jump in the shower during nap time, call people you love. If your cup isn’t full, you can’t fill others’.
Haa Shuká, Íitl’ Kuníisii, Na Łagigyetgm
Our ancestors and future generations
2. Respond to children’s needs
Infants and children will feel this shift even if they don’t have words to talk about it. Some children will show signs of stress now and some will show them later. Many may have behavioral regression, such as crying, thumb sucking, and other behaviors they may have had at an earlier age (Talking With Children: Tips for caregivers, parents, and teachers during infectious disease outbreaks, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration). It is important to respond with love and kindness. These are frightening times. Hold your little ones close. Meet them where they are by reacting as if they are younger. Rock them in your arms, sing soothing songs, provide a comforting touch.
Wooch Yáx, Gu dlúu, Ama Mackshm
Social and spiritual balance
3. Set a daily schedule
Children thrive on predictability. Set a daily schedule and stick to it as best you can. Allow for some wiggle room and adjustments as we all get settled. Having a firm bedtime and wake-up time will help children manage their emotions throughout the day.
Encourage 3- to 5-year-olds to take more responsibility by choosing their own clothes, dressing themselves, helping with meal times, washing everything with soap and water, and anything else you think of!
Limit screen time for this age range. The brain is developing essential pathways right now. The more connections infants and toddlers have to loved ones, the better. FaceTime or other virtual connections with people don’t count! You can connect virtually as long as your child’s interest lasts.
Infants and toddlers will need a schedule with regular nap times, balanced with fun, interactive activities, such as a time for music, story time, floor time, sensory exploration (include a variety of textures - soft, scratchy, hard, smooth, fluffy). Watch our Facebook feed for more activities!
4. Set Realistic Expectations
It’s easy to do too much, or expect that we can fit more in. Let the house be messy to allow time for play. If an activity isn’t working, move on to something else. Follow your child’s lead and they will teach YOU!
Haa Aaní, Íitl’ Tlagáa, Na Laxyuubm
Protecting and honoring our land
5. Get fresh air
Make time each day to get outside, even if it’s a walk with kids in the stroller. Require hand washing when returning home, and continue to practice social distancing. Playgrounds may be off limits for now, but we live in Alaska where the forest and beaches provide amazing opportunities for imaginative, creative play.
Above all, be kind.
Stay safe and know that we are in this together!