Caring for Your Mind, Body, Spirit while at Home

As we transition to an approach to life that raises many questions, Lakewood Catholic Academy hopes to offer some direction as you and your families hunker down.

We are not health professionals, save the esteemed Mrs. Kocsan and Miss Higgs. We are, however, experienced educators confident in our ability to bring joy, learning and purpose into the lives of young saints. As you embark upon an unprecedented journey through the weeks ahead, we offer the following suggestions to ensure your time with your children is guided by a focus on maintaining a healthy mind, body and spirit.

Screen Time

Let’s acknowledge the obvious – your children’s solution to COVID-19 likely involves a regular dosage of screen time. Aside from any recreational screen time permitted in your home, the learning facilitated by our staff will require young eyes to spend some time focusing on screens. This is the world in which we live – a wired world in which there are many opportunities to use technology for good.

As our world changes, however, we must not become so fascinated by what technology can do that we forget what it can’t do. The world’s best technology will not inspire, motivate, console, encourage, or reward. At a time when we have been told to distance ourselves socially, we must work hard to socialize authentically.

  • Your children do not have cell phones with them during the school day. Do not hesitate to institute similar policies during this time at home. Staying connected to friends is important, but doing so exclusively through group texts and stories on the ‘Gram isn’t healthy. Encourage your children to call their friends. If your children are younger, perhaps that means putting them on speaker phone so that you, along with a parent in the friend’s house, can help to guide the conversation.
  • Video games cannot take over, nor can they take the place of you. Never has there been a better time to reinstitute family game night (or afternoon). Collect $200 when you pass Go, make it an enthusiastic Yahtzee when all five dice are the same, and help your children get to know Colonel Mustard & Mrs. Peacock.
  • Charlie Chaplin once said that, “Movies are a fad.” He clearly didn’t subscribe to Netflix or Disney+. You likely do, however, and your children will certainly be more than happy to ensure you get your money’s worth in the weeks ahead. As they watch their favorite movies and series, be sure that their time doing so is limited. Also be sure that it is monitored. Know what they are watching. Make some suggestions. Join them on the couch.

As adults, we too have become reliant on screens. This will be just as hard for us as it will for our children, but we must set the example. Especially during this time when we risk allowing screens to fill an expansive void, reconsider the tech policies in place in your home, and consider putting practices into place that will encourage your children, and you, to spend time looking up and looking to each other.

Especially for children, routines offer comfort, consistency and a sense of safety. For parents, they preserve sanity. There is nothing routine about the circumstances in which we find ourselves. The Serenity Prayer asks God to “grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” We cannot change the impact of COVID-19, nor the resulting directives from our health and government leaders. We can, however, maintain our positions as kings and queens of our own castles. While each family will adjust to these changes as their own situation requires, we encourage all families to outline, to the degree possible, a daily schedule for your children. We have provided a sample schedule on our parent resource page.

Our world is changing in such a way that it is becoming smaller – quickly. Despite any limitations on access to space and resources, we encourage you to do all you can to maintain active lifestyles nourished by healthy diets.

Keep It Moving
Find a way for you and your children to stay active. Not only is a sedentary lifestyle bad for you physically, but significant amounts of inactivity may also contribute to anxiety and depression. Taking a walk, going on a run or riding a bike (with a helmet) is a simple way to put your body – and your children’s – to work. Do the kids need a sport to get them going? Throw around a ball or frisbee, shoot some hoops, or play some tennis. Need activity ideas for the kids without leaving home?

  • Do you have a driveway? Relay races, four square and hop-scotch are classics.
  • Do you have a way to play music? Dance party it is.
  • Do you have access to the internet? Yes, screens can help here. Visit (or download the app) for an assortment of movement and mindfulness videos.

Your Body is a Temple
Treat it as such. That starts with a good night’s sleep. Your children currently don’t need to be up for school each morning, so getting them to bed as if they did is not necessarily worth the argument. While you might be able to earn some “cool mama/papa” points by relaxing bedtime a bit, keep it within reason, based on the age of your child(ren). If you’re not already doing so, turning off screens 30-60 minutes before bed is a great way to help children (and adults) fall asleep, and keeping all screens out of bedrooms at night is a helpful step in making sure those blue wavelengths don’t interrupt that much needed slumber.

Violet Beauregarde proved that you are what you eat. We completely understand that the food available in your home depends on how well your grocery store shelves were stocked before the panic of the pandemic set in. That being said, snacks can be just as ineffective and inappropriate a solution to boredom as screens. To the best of your ability, have quality snacks in the house for your children. Sweets are certainly okay within reason, but make sure your children don’t take the approach of Violet’s friend, Augustus Gloop. Be just as mindful of what your children are drinking as what they are eating. They make it through each school day by hydrating primarily on water. There’s nothing wrong with those two hydrogen atoms and their oxygenated friend helping you out at home as well.

We encourage our students to talk with God. What better time to engage him in conversation? We also remind our students to give thanks for all the blessings, however small, they have in their lives. At a time when blessings that we all take for granted are now being limited or withheld, it is even more important that we show our children what it means to appreciate what you have. It is equally important that we bow our heads with our children as we pray for those who are without.  We have some faith-filled online resources available for parents on our parent resource page.

This is what you share with us each day. Your children are your greatest joy. That joy is understandably and inevitably impacted by the situation in which we find ourselves. Upon the announcement of the suspension of classes, many students cheered, only to quickly realize what that time away would really mean. School is more than textbooks and tests. It is a place of interaction, connectivity and engagement. We strive to create an environment in which each one of our students knows that he/she is loved and special. You do the same in your homes. We commit to doing all that we can during this time away to continue to bring joy to your children, and we commit to being here to support you and answer any and all questions you may have along the way.

Our entire faculty and staff will remain available throughout the suspension of classes. It is our recommendation that any communication with teachers and/or administrators be initiated via email. Be sure to keep an eye on your inbox throughout this time as we will be sharing information about at home learning at LCA. More importantly, we will be doing all we can to engage your children and to preserve those smiles that we love seeing every day.

~Michael Fletcher, Dean of Students

What To Say To Kids When The News Is Scary

What To Say To Kids When The News Is Scary

By Anya Kamenetz and Cory Turner, NPR

If you find the news out of Iran or Australia unsettling, imagine how a child might be feeling right now. NPR’s Life Kit spoke with a handful of child development experts about what parents, teachers and other caregivers can do to help prepare and protect kids from all the scary news out there, whether it’s fighting overseas, a school shooting or a devastating wildfire. Here’s what those experts had to say:

Limit their exposure to breaking news

“We can control the amount of information. We can control the amount of exposure,” says Rosemarie Truglio, senior vice president of curriculum and content at Sesame Workshop.

Truglio says that for starters, try not to let your children experience the news without you. That includes letting the TV or audio play in the background. In 2017, 42 percent of parents of young children told Common Sense Media that the TV is on “always” or “most” of the time.

As a little girl growing up in rural Louisiana, Alison Aucoin remembers her father watching the evening news during the Vietnam War. “The way that our house was set up, it was kind of impossible for me to completely miss it.”

Aucoin vividly recalls the rapid fire of rifles and the shouting of soldiers, but it was two words that the reporters and anchors kept using that truly frightened her.

“[I] heard the words ‘guerrilla warfare’ and … thought, gorillas — like apes,” Aucoin says. “And I literally had a plan for where I would hide in my closet when the gorillas came.”

While it’s important to limit your kids’ exposure to potentially frightening media, some stories are simply too big to avoid. And as kids get older, if they don’t hear about it at home, they’ll almost certainly hear something from classmates at school.

Tara Conley, a media researcher at Montclair State University, says adults should choose a quiet moment to check in with their kids, maybe at the dinner table or at bedtime.

The idea, she says, is to allow kids to “ask questions about what they’re seeing, how they’re feeling and what do they think.” In other words: Give kids a safe space to reflect and share.

Give kids facts and context

Check-ins also allow you to debunk memes, myths and misconceptions, and that’s important in the social media maelstrom, says Holly Korbey, author of Building Better Citizens, a new book on civics education. In the days since the recent Iran news broke, she says, “My own teenagers were showing me these memes and rumors on Instagram spreading about boys being drafted for World War III, no kidding.”

Korbey says, “One of the most important things parents can do in this scary climate is to talk to kids about facts. For example: ‘No, there is not a draft, and no we haven’t started World War III.'”

Truglio says that if scary news is happening far from home, the best thing a parent or caregiver can do is to reach for a map. Then, she says, a child could “see distance, that it’s not in their immediate environment.”

Some traumatic events, however, might be closer to home — a school shooting, for example. In that case, it’s important to convey that, overall, such events are incredibly rare. After all, that’s why it’s news.

When they ask why something happened, avoid labels like “bad guys.”

Evan Nierman, a father of two, lives in Parkland, Fla. His son turned 11 the day after the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and his daughter was 8. He says one of the toughest moments for him as a father was when his kids asked why the shooting happened. “And there’s obviously not a great answer for that. It’s hard to explain.”

Truglio says we should resist the temptation to label anyone “bad guys” or “evil.” It’s not helpful, and it may increase fear and confusion. Instead, she says, talk about people being in pain, being angry and making bad choices. That’s what Nierman and his wife settled on, telling their children that the shooter wasn’t well and needed help.

And according to Truglio, there’s one important thing parents shouldn’t be afraid to say: I don’t know.

“Sometimes we don’t have the answers to all of these whys,” she explains. “It’s important for parents to say … ‘I don’t know why it happened.’ ”

Encourage kids to process the story through play and art

Children often try to make sense of what they see and hear through art and creative play. Sometimes it can be disturbing for adults to see children reenact or draw something scary or violent, but this kind of play serves an important purpose.

Conley says, “Play is part of reconstructing [children’s] own stories.” She calls it “meaning-making” and says adults do it too — by discussing stories with friends or even sharing memes on social media. “It also helps us make sense of the world around us … when we’re being bombarded with information,” she explains, “and it helps us discern credible information.”

“Look for the helpers”

Fred Rogers, the beloved children’s TV host, famously passed on this advice from his mother: “When something scary is happening, look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

Truglio did this when she talked to her then-young son about the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting. The shooting happened on a Friday, and she kept him away from the television all weekend.

“We didn’t turn on the TV until President Obama spoke and there was a memorial service,” Truglio says. “We focused on the positive — how people were gathering and taking care of each other.”

There’s evidence that talking about helpers really does make a difference in how kids see their world. After the Columbine school shooting in 1999, Sesame Workshop studied school-age children’s perceptions of the world through their drawings. The images were full of violence, Truglio says: “guns and knives and dead people.”

But after the Sept. 11 attacks, just two years later, media coverage changed, she says, focusing more on themes like “the country is strong. The country’s coming together. We are united. We are going to get through this.” And this made a difference for kids: Their drawings featured American flags and heroes like police officers or firefighters.

Take positive action together

Alison Aucoin, who shared her memories and fears of the Vietnam War, is white; her daughter, Edelawit, was adopted from Ethiopia. Edelawit was just 7 years old when Michael Brown, a black teenager, was shot and killed while unarmed by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014.

“I was scared that something like this would happen to me,” Edelawit, now 12, says, and ever since, whenever a similar, police-related shooting happens, she and her mother follow a few steps. First, her mother shares the news.

“I always have time to process it,” Edelawit says. “And then she says what I can do to protect myself. And then we go and protest.”

“In talking with our children,” Conley says, “we also have to show them how we’re helping too, and asking them, ‘How do you see yourself as a helper in these situations?’ ”

You might consider bringing your child to a peaceful rally or protest, collecting donations together or writing to an elected official. A sense of agency can dramatically reduce a child’s anxiety.

In other words, don’t just look for the helpers … be the helpers.

This story was originally published on April 26, 2019.