Did you know, April is Alcohol Awareness Month? If you haven’t already, now may be a good time to reflect on your drinking patterns and the role that alcohol plays in your life.
This year’s theme is “Connecting the Dots: Opportunity for Recovery, which focuses primarily on youth education and prevention. This specific group of individuals can be easily influenced by alcohol and other substances if not educated or informed about risks. For this reason, we are asking you to join us this month to help raise awareness in our communities, schools, and homes on alcohol use.
Our youth in Skagit County
According to the 2021 Healthy Youth Survey, Alcohol use has been reported by youth as young as 6th grade, and prevalence of regular use increases each year. By 12th grade, approximately 1 in 5 12th graders reported drinking in the past month. This can be for many reasons, perhaps one being that children in these grades are not getting enough information about alcohol.
Why is it important?
Research shows that heavy alcohol use during teen years can permanently damage the still developing brain. Alcohol use at a young age is also associated with violence, poor school performance, suicide, and risky sexual behavior. The use of alcohol at this early age can lead to possible substance abuse later in life and Alcohol use disorder (AUD), which affects about 15 million adults in the United States. There are more than 380 deaths each day in the U.S. due to excessive alcohol use, making alcohol the third leading preventable cause of death in the nation.
Looking for something positive? Research also shows that about 50% of children who have conversations with parents about risks are less likely to use drugs and alcohol, than those who do not. That’s why “connecting the dots” with your child, sibling, cousin, niece, or nephew is so important.
What can we do to help spread awareness?
Although one month out of the year is not enough time to help educate and help everyone recover, continue to spread the word about the importance of alcohol awareness to friends and family.
Get creative and make informational flyers about the topic with resources and distribute them around your neighborhood town, local stores etc. Host a fundraiser to donate money to local non-profit treatment facilities.
Skagit County Public Health is ecstatic to announce that pediatric Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is now available at its drive-through Testing and Vaccine Site at the Fairgrounds. This announcement follows the FDA’s endorsement on October 29, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices unanimous vote on November 2, and the subsequent support of the Western States Scientific Review Workgroup and the Washington State Department of Health.
Children are not immune to this virus and the great challenges it poses to everyday life. The CDC’s latest data show that 172 children ages 5 to 11 have died from COVID-19 and more than 8,300 have been hospitalized. Science also does not yet know the long term impacts children could face from having contracted and recovered from COVID-19.
“In Skagit County, approximately 25 percent of all our COVID-19 cases between September 5 and October 23 were in school age children. Pediatric vaccines will be a game changer in our fight against this virus.”
Howard Leibrand, Skagit County Health Officer
Pediatric Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is available to children 5-11 years old at the Fairgrounds by appointment only. Parents and caregivers can now make an appointment by going to https://prepmod.doh.wa.gov/ and searching for “Skagit County Public Health” under Name of Location.Appointments are limited at this time. If, when you search, there are no appointments available, please check back the following Monday around 12:00pm.
Parents/caregivers may also check with other providers about availability. For a full list of local vaccination providers, go to Vaccine Locator or call the COVID-19 Information Hotline at 1-800-525-0127, then press #.
The Fairgrounds is located at 501 Taylor Street in Mount Vernon and operates on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays from 3pm to 7pm. Parent/guardian consent to vaccinate is required for all dependent minors and must be provided in-person at the time of the appointment.
COVID-19 vaccines are provided at no-cost, and no insurance required. For more information about the site, go to: www.skagitcounty.net/COVIDvaccine or call (360) 416-1500.
Are your kids heading back to school? Whether your child is going to school in person or not, one of the most important things that you can do to prepare them for back-to-school is a visit with their doctor. For many people, the COVID-19 pandemic delayed or pushed back routine doctor visits, including well-child visits and routine vaccinations. Now is the time to get back on track!
Since August is National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM), we figured this would be the perfect time to remind Skagit County families to get caught up on all routine medical appointments! NIAM is an annual observance which highlights the importance of getting recommended vaccines throughout your life.
During NIAM, we encourage you to talk to your doctor or healthcare professional to ensure that you and your family are protected against serious diseases by getting caught up on routine check-ups and vaccinations.
So let’s get ready for back-to-school! Here’s a checklist to help them prepare for a healthy year…
Physical & mental health
During a well-child check, doctors will note a child’s growth and development, based on what’s typical or expected for their age, while also taking into account the child’s personal or family history.
And perhaps of equal importance—and especially so this year—a check-up with your child’s doctor provides a fantastic opportunity to check in on your kiddo’s mental and emotional wellbeing. Talk with your child’s doctor about mental health assessments and discuss any concerns that you may have. We all know that this past year and a half has been tough, so be sure to keep both the head and the heart in mind!
One important aspect of the annual visit is to ensure a child’s immunizations are up to date. Vaccinations not only reduce the risk of serious illnesses but also save lives. And vaccinations aren’t only for babies or the very young. As children get older, they will continue to need additional immunizations and booster shots even through adulthood.
As your children head back to school this fall, it’s particularly important for you to work with your child’s doctor or nurse to make sure they get caught up on missed well-child visits and recommended vaccines. For childhood vaccine schedules, check out the links below:
One of the new vaccines this year is, of course, for COVID-19. Children ages 12 and older are now eligible for this vaccination, which will help protect them against the virus and reduce its spread in our communities. To learn more about COVID-19 vaccination, check out the following websites:
Reduce anxiety and manage stress. Keep the lines of communication open to talk about what’s on your child’s mind.
Schedule your child’s visit
Now is a good time to call your healthcare provider to schedule a visit for yourself and your children. For those who do not have a healthcare provider or who may be struggling to access healthcare, there is help available.
Help Me Grow Skagit provides a wide range of resources designed to support you and your family. Go to their website or call/ text (360) 630-8352 to talk to a specialist or complete their contact form online.
Saying that new parents are mentally and emotionally overwhelmed is an understatement! Between nighttime feeding, colic, breast or bottle feeding, and sleep training, it is amazing that new moms and dads are capable of handling anything else during the first year!
It is easy to forget all the little details when life is changing so quickly; one of those things that gets forgotten may be your baby’s dental health. Whether your baby pops a few cute teeth right away or rocks a gummy grin for months, it is important to always keep dental—and gum—health in mind!
Those little chompers are doing more than just gnawing on baby teethers and bars of their crib. It may not be obvious why baby teeth are so important, especially since children lose them eventually anyway. But the reality is that these little teeth, and the behaviors that children develop in order to keep them clean, are vitally important to their long-term dental health. Baby teeth can actually impact the health and wellbeing of incoming adult teeth!
Here are some things to consider when thinking about your child’s baby teeth:
Tooth alignment and position
Baby teeth (or “primary teeth”) save space for adult teeth and help to guide the adult teeth into their proper position. So long as the teeth and gums remain healthy (and there are no serious accidents!), these primary teeth stay in place up until the adult teeth underneath are ready to erupt through the gums.
If a baby tooth is lost early due to tooth decay, the adjacent teeth may drift or tip into that gap. The adult (or “permanent tooth”) then has less room to come in properly.
Speech and facial development
Everything in the mouth plays a part when it comes to forming sounds, including your tongue, cheeks, and teeth. The presence and positioning of baby teeth can impact your baby’s ability to form words correctly.
Tooth structure also provides support for the developing facial muscles and gives shape to your child’s face. A healthy mouth is a happy face! And who doesn’t love a cute little baby face?!
Healthy adult teeth
Permanent teeth develop under the gums, very close to the roots of baby teeth. Cavities can spread very quickly through the thin enamel of baby teeth and can be detrimental to the health of the adult teeth below. If cavities are left untreated, baby teeth can become infected, which can, in turn, cause further damage to the permanent tooth underneath.
Health and nutrition
If your baby is experiencing pain when they chew due to dental infection, this can lead to feeding issues. Nothing is worse than a cranky baby who won’t eat—especially since many times they cannot express why they are upset. Left unchecked, it can even result in nutritional deficiencies. Furthermore, if an infection spreads, it can impact other parts of the body.
While your baby or young child may not care how goofy they look, eventually, their appearance will matter. Decayed or missing teeth can impact a child’s confidence, leading to low self-esteem and behavioral issues.
Dental health can also impact your child’s ability to concentrate. If a child is having dental pain, it can get in the way of them paying attention and learning in school. If emergency dental work is needed, this could mean missed school (and work for parents).
So, what should parents do?
It is recommended that parents schedule a dental checkup within 6 months of a child’s first tooth appearing and definitely by age one (regardless of how many teeth the child may have at this point). Why so early? As soon as teeth break through the gums, he or she can develop cavities.
Getting your child used to visiting the dentist from an early age is also a great way to begin developing a healthy relationship between your child and their dentist. It can be intimidating for a child to sit in a dentist chair and have a stranger looking around in their mouth! Parents can do a lot to help to dissipate any fears their young child may have.
Remember to get your child into the dentist at least once a year, if not twice! Routine dental checkups are important in order to prevent cavities and other oral health issues. These appointments also give parents the opportunity to learn more about healthy oral practices that they can encourage at home.
Looking for resources?
Families with children ages five and younger can call Skagit County’s ABCD program at (360) 416-1500 for help finding dental care for their children. For families who quality, some benefits of the program include:
Earlier this month, the Washington Poison Center (WAPC) released its data “snapshot” for 2020. This is something that WAPC puts out annually in order to educate the public about poisoning trends at the state level. These trends are based on the types of calls that WPAC’s hotline receives throughout the year, compared to years prior.
This year has been one for the books in so many ways, and the new data snapshot tells an interesting story. I had the opportunity to talk with one of WPAC’s staff, and I’d like to share what I learned.
But first: What is the Washington Poison Center (WAPC)?
The Washington Poison Center (WAPC) provides immediate, free, and expert treatment advice and assistance on the telephone in case of exposure to poisonous, hazardous, or toxic substances. Each year, its specialists answer more than 63,000 calls from Washingtonians related to poisoning and toxic exposures. All calls are free, confidential, and help is available 24/7/365.
COVID-19 has increased our risks of accidental poisoning. Period. So what is the reason for this increase? WAPC staff believe that it is due to several factors, including:
We are home more due to social distancing and other safety guidance
We may have new daily routines this year that are out of the ordinary
More products in the home (perhaps due to stockpiling) may cause increased access
More stress can cause people to be less focused
Rumors and misinformation can lead to dangerous choices
Calls to the Center have increased in 2020, and staff have seen spikes in calls regarding substances common to COVID prevention (hand sanitizer and household cleaners). They have also seen spikes in calls for vulnerable demographics like adolescents and adults over 60.
This data is concerning, and parallels poison trends across the U.S.
Cleaners & Sanitizers
It isn’t unusual for WAPC to receive calls about household cleaners; however, this year has definitely seen a serious uptick. Most calls have been in regards to accidental poisonings, or poisonings due to misuse (mixing products, using in low ventilated areas, etc).
The vast majority of hand sanitizer exposures have been in children ages 0-12, most likely due to increased access to the products in the home. The high alcohol content in these products can be very dangerous for young children, so it is extremely important to supervise kids when using hand sanitizer and to make sure that bottles are always out of reach.
An interesting find this year has been the decrease in nicotine exposure calls. In 2020, nicotine exposure in children ages 0-5 actually decreased—a trend that even WAPC staff were a bit surprised about. Perhaps the decrease is due to parents being home more? Or perhaps the new Tobacco 21 law has decreased access to these products? While it is difficult to pinpoint direct correlations, it is certainly nice to see this type of data!
That said, it is still very important to keep nicotine products stored safely and away from children. The vast majority of calls for 0-5 year old’s were for raw tobacco, with vape products in second. WAPC staff explained that raw tobacco can be dangerous, but vape liquid—if ingested—can be fatal. Always, always, keep these products away from children, as flavored liquids can be especially enticing to little kids.
Trends for THC exposure are less rosy. All age groups saw an increase in THC exposures this year, with a sizeable increase among children 0-5. Among this group, exposures were almost 100% due to unintentional use (getting a hold of an edible, plant-based product, or concentrate). Safe and secure storage of these products is crucial to keeping kids safe.
This is another area that has historically been a concern for WAPC, however COVID has exacerbated the problem. Stress, distractions, and new routines can lead to user error and poor judgement. WAPC staff encourage people to use medication lists, trackers, and reminders in order to decrease risk of double-dosing or mixing meds.
It is also encouraged that people secure medications in the home. This simple step can decrease the likelihood of accidental poisonings in young children, or misuse among adolescents.
By far, this data tells the most worrisome story. Historically, data has shown an increase in youth self-harm/suicidal intent since 2014, and this trend continues. COVID-19 related isolation and stress may increase these risks—something that mental health experts have been concerned about for months.
It is encouraging, however, to see this data and to realize just how amazing our kids are. Despite all the ups and downs of 2020, our youth are showing resilience in magnitudes. We must not forget that we can all make a positive difference everyday in the lives of our young people.
Two steps that each of us can take today are: 1) locking up medications (even over-the-counter meds like Tylenol and Advil); and 2) talking to our children about substance use. Don’t know where to start with this? Visit Start Talking Now for some ideas.
What to expect when you call
It doesn’t need to be an emergency to call the Washington Poison Center—you can call to get advice or directions if you are concerned or confused about poison-related issues.
You will speak with an expert (nurse, pharmacist, or poison information provider), and there are always Board Certified Medical Toxicologists on-call if necessary. You are not required to give your name, however providing your age and gender can be extremely helpful in order to gauge risk. What was taken, when, and how much are other vital details to provide to the staff.
These calls are always confidential. You do not need to be worried about law enforcement or CPS getting involved. WAPC is concerned about your safety and about providing care.
Staff are trained to provide direction on what to do, what to watch for, and most of the time this can all happen with the caller at home. If/when it is decided that the caller needs medical intervention, staff can advise the caller to go to the emergency room, or WAPC can actually contact EMS on the caller’s behalf.
Finally, WAPC staff will follow-up with you—just to make sure that everything is alright!
It is important to be vigilant when it comes to poisoning prevention—now more than ever. With that said, I feel comforted in knowing that there are trained professionals available to answer my questions. If you don’t have the Washington Poison Center’s phone number somewhere in your home, I encourage you to jot it down! 1-800-222-1222
It is National Health Education Week—a week in which we seek to increase national awareness on major public health issues and promote a better understanding of the role of health education. And who better to highlight than our fabulous health educators in schools?!
In celebration of National Health Education Week, I wanted to share what local Physical Education (PE) teachers have been doing to keep students healthy and active during this not-so-normal school year. This particular interview is with Michele Kloke, a PE teacher with the Sedro-Woolley School District.
What grades and subjects do you teach?
I teach Kindergarten through 6th grade currently. I’ve been a Specialist most of my years in Sedro-Woolley—a Librarian/Tech teacher, PE Specialist, and I’ve even taught Kindergarten and 1st grade. What I LOVE about being a Specialist at Lyman Elementary is that I normally get to see each child every day! It is also what’s made teaching remotely so difficult. I’ve missed the personal contact with our students. We all have.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I have other teaching responsibilities besides PE so part of my day is devoted to those. While some of our PE teachers are teaching online, others—like myself—are teaching remotely because it works best for our situations. Time is spent researching sites and activities that reinforce the curriculum we are teaching within our district as elementary PE teachers. Other activities include: emails, Zoom Meetings, videotaping to make lessons more personal, Loom, work on Google Classroom, Google Slide lessons, creating Docs, PD Trainings, working on site and more.
What types of things do you do to keep students engaged?
I keep things perky and provide lots of options and choices for them to engage in as they work on lesson TARGETS and Success Criteria. Making sure the sites and activities are not only engaging but that they provide differentiation and awesome Challenges is important. The Challenges are usually ones we’ve done in class or are from experts in a sport or activity. It’s inspiring! I also give students the choice to do their own activities and let me know what they did on their Exit Slips.
I use Google Slides and link them to PE Google Classrooms. What’s great about using Google Slides is that I can personalize them and it gives students and their families more flexibility. They can do a slide or two a day (lessons are meant to be done over several days) and they can do them when it works best for them. Having Exit Slips at the end of each lesson is a way to engage students and provide feedback. I also like to email, encourage, and congratulate students on their effort.
Those teaching lessons via Zoom mentioned they try to keep things light, lively, and keep students moving.
What are some things that students can be doing at home on their own time to stay active and stay healthy?
Take brain breaks often! Even 2 minutes of movement is helpful in boosting their ability to stay focused. Longer is better, of course! Getting outside, riding bikes, or just playing and moving will do wonders! Students are building and growing their bodies right now so movement is really important, and eating foods that are healthy. This time of year provides a lot of fresh and delicious food choices.
What has been the biggest struggle so far this school year?
One of my cohorts said it well: “…It seems ironic that PE teachers are using screen time to encourage physical activity, but that’s our means of communication with students at this time.”
Another challenge with PE in our elementary schools is consistent participation in the lessons. While each school is unique in its approach, the lessons are following a district-generated set of instruction which, unfortunately, not all students are receiving.
Troubleshooting technology issues and learning new technology has also been challenging.
What have been some really great moments for you this year?
For all of us, hearing from our students and families personally via emails, posts, or other means is THE BEST! We miss them SO much and love any and all contact we receive.
For example, one of my students mentioned that she hadn’t completed the PE Lesson yet because she and her family went on a long hike. Then she proceeded to explain all the crazy, exciting things that happened on their hike including getting snowed on. I loved hearing that story and it helped make me feel more connected.
Also, recently beginning to teach PE in-person with our K-2 students has been WONDERFUL!
If you could tell parents one thing, what would you tell them?
Stay healthy and stay active! This isn’t forever, but being active is. Please, take screen time breaks as often as possible by doing something fun that involves movement. You’ll be glad you did…and so will your child. We miss you and your children!
Red Ribbon Week is dedicated to spreading awareness about youth substance use prevention and the mission of keeping all kids drug-free. It takes place every year from October 23 through October 31st, and this year is no exception. Your student’s health teacher or prevention specialist may be touching on some prevention messaging right now, so it could be a prime opportunity to continue this conversation with your child (if you aren’t doing so already). So let’s talk prevention!
Why is it important?
Ninety percent of people with addictions started using substances in their teen years. Beginning at age 10 through the mid- to late-20s, massive changes are underway in the brain. This includes the development of capabilities related to impulse control, managing emotions, problem-solving and anticipating consequences. Substance use during this time period can cause the brain to be more susceptible to addiction and other mental health disorders, especially for kids who are vulnerable.
Substance use and COVID-19
Some early research is coming out that shows that youth substance use rates are being negatively impacted by COVID-19 and social distancing measures. An article written in the Journal for Adolescent Health noted that, of those adolescents surveyed, “the percentage of users decreased [since the beginning of COVID-19]; however, the frequency of both alcohol and cannabis use increased.” Perhaps of more concern is that, while the majority of those using substances were engaging in solitary substance use (49.3%), “many were still using substances with peers via technology (31.6%) and, shockingly, even face to face (23.6%).” For parents who are actively working to keep their kids COVID-free, this added information may be worrisome.
Risks of use and COVID-19
We do not know yet if the occurrence of COVID-19 is higher for people who use drugs or have substance use disorder than for those who don’t use drugs, however some underlying medical conditions seem to increase risk of severe illness from COVID-19. For example, vaping may harm lung health, and emerging evidence suggests that exposure to aerosols from e-cigarettes harms the cells of the lung and diminishes the ability to respond to infection. For this reason, it is possible that drug use could make COVID-19 illness more severe, but more evidence is needed.
Can parents really make a difference?
Absolutely! Parents are the biggest influence in a teen’s life. Even though it may not appear to be true at times, deep down they still want you involved. A strong parent/child bond, especially during the teen years, helps reduce the chances of them engaging in unhealthy behavior and helps set the stage for preventing nicotine, alcohol, and drug use.
When and how to talk about substance use?
These conversations should happen frequently, and typically work best when a parent and child are already engaging in some type of activity together. It is important to listen, show empathy, and be understanding.Connecting often, communicating about your expectations and setting boundaries, and even encouraging healthy risk taking are all things that parents can do to set their children up for success.
Parents can begin talking with their children about drug prevention at a surprisingly young age! These early conversations may not sound exactly like “drug prevention;” instead, the focus should be on laying a strong foundation of trust and openness, while also teaching (and demonstrating) healthy habits. For tips on how to talk to your child at any age, visit: https://drugfree.org/article/prevention-tips-for-every-age/.
What should parents be looking out for?
Figuring out if your child is using substances can be challenging; many of the signs and symptoms are typical teen or young adult behavior. However, sometimes they can be attributed to underlying issues. Mental health concerns like depression and anxiety, as well as traumatic events or periods of transition, can create a greater risk for the development of problematic substance use. Children and teens are dealing with a lot of changes right now, making it all the more important that parents be looking out for concerning behavior.
If you have reason to suspect use, don’t be afraid to err on the side of caution. Prepare to take action and have a conversation during which you can ask direct questions like “Have you been drinking, vaping or using drugs?” No parent wants to hear “yes,” but being prepared for how you would respond can be the starting point for a more positive outcome.
Where do I go for help?
There is help available if you are concerned that your child may be using substances—or even if you’re struggling with how to begin a conversation! Drugfree.org has one-on-one help available for parents: visit https://drugfree.org/article/get-one-on-one-help/ for ways to connect.
Want to get involved in your community?
Between now and December 15th, our three prevention community coalitions are collecting information from Skagit County adults (18+) about their perceptions regarding local youth substance use. Do you live or work in one of these communities? Consider filing out the survey! Your feedback has direct influence on prevention programming available for youth and families.
As we find ourselves well into our sixth month of living with Covid-19, many parents have one thing in common – we are all juggling multiple demands in a time that leaves us feeling more uncertain. The idea of being at home for some is isolating and for others it feels more like a safe haven. No matter which side of the aisle you are on, the role of a parent has suddenly become more demanding. That’s because stressful events, like being in the midst of a global pandemic, adds a layer of unpredictability in our lives.
Whether you are feeling stressed out, burned out, or just plain tired, you are not alone. Stress is sometimes defined as when the need to respond exceeds our capacity to respond. How can you recognize stress and burnout? Stress comes in three forms. Acute stress is healthy stress, like when you have a deadline for work or school. Episodic stress is short episodes of high stress, such as taking on too much work, then, being unable to get the stress out of your system. Finally, chronic stress is one that has been linked to chronic health conditions, such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Chronic stress is very serious and needs to be managed with care and helping professionals. Burnout is a complete feeling of exhaustion and can make you withdraw from other people. Burnout can lead to cynicism and can cause you to delay tasks.
During our Coping with Stress virtual seminars at the Parenting Academy, we talk to parents and caregivers about managing stress and building our capacity, as parents, for emotional well-being, which centers around three main strategies:
Awareness of unhealthy thinking
Shifting negative self-talk and automatic thoughts
Challenging unhelpful thoughts
First, ask yourself, “What evidence do I have for this thought or idea?” Then, ask, “What could be another explanation?” Finally, ask yourself, “What can I do to change or shift my thinking that would lead to a positive outcome?“
To prevent stress and burnout, it’s important to plan daily activities that alleviate stress, just like you would plan to get a cup of coffee at Starbucks or watch your favorite show on Netflix. It’s important to invest in yourself in ways that add years to your life.
Here are a few examples:
Invest in your heart – Eating heart healthy foods such as leafy green vegetables, lean fish and meat, and minimizing sugar, can contribute to having a good nutritional balance. (See My Plate.gov or Harvard Healthy Eating Plate). You can use cooking as a way to learn math, science, experiment with food and enjoy eating new foods.
Invest in your body – Pumping oxygen into your blood is not only good for your heart it is also good for your mind. Studies show that exercising can release positive “happy” hormones into your body and relieve stress. Children love to exercise with their parents. Families are taking more walks, riding bikes, playing soccer and making the most of their own backyards.
Invest in your brain – Has anyone ever given you a prescription to laugh? Well, if not, consider this your first one. Laughing soothes tension, stimulates organs, re-wires new neural pathways in your brain and alleviates stress. When parents take time to play with their children, this can involve 5-10 minutes of mutual enjoyment, laughter and a break from your day. Children learn from play and play can be a great way to co-regulate.
When you invest in yourself, you will not only improve your own health, you will also be modeling health and wellness for your children; you will be more present for your child, and you will be having fun in the process. That’s a gift that will last a lifetime.
If you would like more information on the Parenting Academy or wish to register for parenting coaching or virtual seminars, please go to www.parenting-academy.org.
One of the things that has kept me going mentally over the past six months has been my garden. Trust me…this thing is nothing to write home about! But it gives me a sense of pride when I look out from my window and I see the tall stalks of our corn blowing in the wind. While I haven’t been able to control a lot since March, I know that this little space I’ve created will be there every day, ready to be watered and weeded. The champions of my garden, without a doubt, have been my pumpkins. I’ve watched these things grow from tiny green balls, to beautiful orange spheres. I’ve been waiting with so much anticipation for October so I can finally cut them off the vine and bring them into our home. Halloween, here we come!
With our Health Officer’s recent announcement about in-person trick-or-treating, along with recommendations from the CDC, I will be honest: I was disappointed. It is okay to feel this way (something I tell myself frequently), and it is normal to mourn our “normal” holiday traditions. That being said, to dwell on this would do a great disservice to ourselves and our loved ones.
So traditional in-person trick-or-treating isn’t happening this year? Okay. There is so much that we can still do—and still control—despite these challenges.
So let’s explore these creative options!
1. Decorate your house and/or yard. You can even hold a contest with your neighbors and vote on the spookiest house!
2. Carve your pumpkins in the front yard this year and have your neighbors do the same. Enjoy this holiday tradition with other families, while keeping a safe distance. Play some Halloween-themed music (Monster Mash, anyone?), and do your best Thriller moves.
3. Coordinate a Halloween scavenger hunt by giving your kids a list of Halloween-themed decorations to look for while they walk outdoors (think cobwebs, ghosts, and black cats).
4. Hold a virtual costume party via video chat with family or friends. Hold a contest for most creative, scariest, sparkliest, best overall, etc.
5. Exchange candy with a few families you know. Do a drop-off delivery at their doorstep for a Halloween surprise for the kids. If you are preparing goodie bags, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 second before and after preparing the bags.
6. Trick-or-treat inside your home—or in the yard—by hiding candy for your kids to find. A few jump-scares may be in order for older kids (so long as this is something that they would find enjoyable!).
7. Have a spooky movie night or Halloween craft party with the family. Call your local library and ask to have some Halloween-themed DVDs or books put together, and pick them up using the library’s curbside pick-up.
If none of these strike your fancy, ask around and see what other people might be planning. Get creative and try some new things. Who knows…you may incorporate some of these 2020 Halloween activities into your future holiday traditions! For some more helpful insights into COVID-safe holiday fun, visit the CDC’s holiday page. Take care of yourself, and happy haunting!
Note: Skagit County’s Health Officer has recommended against in-person trick-or-treating this year because it “presents too much of a risk for widespread community transmission.” We realize that there may be families who still participate this year, despite the recommendation. For those who intend to trick-or-treat, it is imperative that the following health precautions be taken.
Handing out candy:
Offer no-contact treats by bagging up separate treats and placing them away from your front door or in your yard or near the sidewalk. Allow trick-or-treaters to gather candy while remaining physically distanced.
If you are preparing bags of candy, wash your hands well before and after preparing the bags.
Do not substitute a Halloween mask for a face covering. Wear an approved face mask. Find one that fits in with your costume!
Maintain six feet of distance from other trick-or-treaters or residents who are handing out candy.
If you are trick-or-treating with others outside your household, keep six feet of distance between yourselves.
Stay away from large costume parties or trick-or-treating events.
Along with Skagit school districts’ back-to-school reopening plans, each school has provided students with a schedule. While it is very important to become familiar with this academic schedule, it is also important to develop a schedule at home that will work for your student, as well as the rest of the household. Here are some ideas that may help bring a sense of clarity to your weekly routine.
1. Compartmentalize your day
For anyone who’s been working from home the past several months, you have probably weighed the costs and benefits of compartmentalizing your day. When the work day bleeds into the work evening, then into the work weekend, it becomes really important to define your time—for your mental health, if nothing else.
The same holds true for your child! Create a routine in which your student gets up, gets dressed and has breakfast, then progresses into their school day. While it can be tempting, it is important to change out of pajamas (at least from time to time!) and put on some day-time clothing. Compartmentalize the day into natural chunks of time: morning classes, lunch, afternoon classes, and end-of-day. The late afternoon should include a period of free time to allow your child to decompress from the day and to wrap up their school work.
2. Take breaks and eat well
Along these same lines, be sure that your student takes breaks and sets aside a time to have lunch. It can be easy for kids to snack while they work, and to eat lunch at their study space. However, it is good for the mind and body to take a breather and spend some time in a different part of the house or outside.
For breaks, it may be helpful to take 15-20 minutes every few hours (or more often, for younger children). Be sure that your child knows that taking a moment to breathe, stretch, and come back to their work is extremely important (even adults need to do this!). If your child is really struggling with a project or assignment, encourage taking a quick break.
3. Get organized
It may be helpful to work with your child on reviewing their weekly academic calendar and any due dates that they may have for assignments. A planner (either paper or digital) could be a great tool for some students, while others may need something that is easily accessible and clearly visible. Just like in a school classroom, your child may find it helpful to have a whiteboard by their desk with a list of assignments, or even a large calendar with due dates clearly marked. This may also be a good thing for you, as the parent, since you can keep track of your child’s schedule from afar.
4. Get active…daily!
This is critical for your child’s physical and mental health. When the weather still permits, encourage your child to go outside to take a walk or bike ride. For younger kids, their local playground may be re-opening! Be sure to talk about keeping distance from others, even when outside, and wear a mask if in a more crowded area.
When the weather starts to turn chilly and/or rainy (or smoky), find some things to do indoors that get their blood flowing! Exercise and dance videos can be fun, and even stretching can be done in small spaces. Doing the same activities every day can get tiresome, so encourage your student to try different ways to get moving. And if you can, do it with them!
5. Encourage socialization
Your child might be excited to get back to school, even if it is remote and online. It may be the first time in a while that they have seen some of their friends and peers after a long COVID summer, and this re-engagement might be a seriously needed mood-booster. But don’t be surprised if by October your student is feeling burned out on online schooling. This kind of socialization might not be enough for many children, and it is okay to admit that!
When your child is feeling antsy or moody, encourage some socialization with friends. While it isn’t advised to schedule in-person meetups with large groups of friends, an occasional get-together between “besties” can be really good for your child’s mental health. Arrange a playdate outdoors for young children (being mindful of the 5-person per week limit), and for older students, maybe a study session outdoors? Take care to maintain social distancing and have your child wear a face covering. While it isn’t “school like usual” with the variety of opportunities to interact, a few social activities a month can go a long way to promote health and wellbeing.
6. Be flexible!
Expect the need to shake things up. A routine is awesome and a schedule is great, but sometimes things just don’t go as planned, and it is okay to modify it if necessary. There will be days that your student is rocking it and crossing off one assignment after another. However, there will also be days when PJs and a bubble bath are the most important thing. Both are okay.
What we are asking of our youth right now is unprecedented, and we must always keep our children’s health at the forefront. If you ever feel like your child is struggling, connect with their teacher (or other school staff) and ask for some advice. You don’t need to take on these challenging times alone.