5 Tips to Help Your
Young Child Thrive
Amidst the Pandemic

Returning to school in an era of uncertainty is adding a lot of stress and confusion to every family’s life. This is especially challenging for parents and children experiencing homelessness, who are already facing distressing situations stemming from housing insecurity.

In a recent presentation, Meghan Schafer, Horizons’ Southeast Region Playspace Program Director spoke at Homes for Families‘ Consumer Advocacy Team meeting on how to support children returning to school in these unique times. Horizons’ interactive presentation focused on five key tips and simple, actionable advice parents can use to support their child’s learning and growth in the year ahead:

  1. Routines help children feel safe in knowing what’s next, so developing a schedule can provide comfort and calm anxieties.  
  2. Providing simple choices allows children to feel in control in these uncertain times, such as asking ‘do you want an apple or orange with lunch?’. 
  3. Using positive language helps kids understand healthy examples of how to behave as opposed to negative language that connotates what they should stop doing – such as ‘please use a gentle voice’ instead of ‘don’t yell.’ 
  4. Identifying a child’s anxiety and talking them through their big feelings is important. This helps them feel heard and opens them up to learning. 
  5. Play benefits every child, by refocusing and releasing energy through their voices and bodies and preparing them for a fun day of learning. 

Horizons’ Playspace Program serves families throughout the state, and the virtual meeting was comprised of Homes for Families consumer advocacy team. This included individuals and families experiencing homelessness seeking tools to advocate for themselves as well as agencies that support them, with 40+ attendees throughout Massachusetts joining to learn how parents can best support their children through the transition back to school whether it be in-person or remote learning.  

“It was great to connect with so many people throughout the community, informing new families of our services and ways they can support their children through compassion and play,” Meghan shared.  

Attendees were both informed and engaged throughout the presentation and Horizons was excited to share resources with underserved families. “Many of the questions we received were on learning more about Playspace in Your Space, Horizons’ interactive online portal for families throughout the Massachusetts shelter system. A lot of the families attending the virtual meeting were in scattered sites or working with stabilization resources in transitional housing outside of the standard shelter system. Now that Horizons has these online resources for play and learning through Playspace in Your Space, we were able to share this with them and serve a new segment of families we weren’t able to work with in the past.” This virtual expansion of the Playspace Program has meant that more children than ever before have access to fun, kid-focused materials that support their development and can bring play and comfort into their daily lives. 

No matter what the year ahead may look like for families, we hope these tips can help parents support their children’s educational journey through patience, positivity, and play. 

This piece was written by Andrea Drag, a regular contributor to Horizons’ Blog. 

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