By Nikki Taylor, Senior Manager, Early Years and Family Supports, Oakville Parent-Child Centre
As a child, I frequently watched the children’s television show Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. Of course, I never met Mr. Rogers, but like many children I felt that I knew him and that, somehow, he knew me. Now, as an adult, I remember his stories and advice and have a deeper appreciation for the lessons he taught. “Be kind, smile, be a helper, and look for the good in yourself and others,” he told us. These are simple and meaningful messages that stand the test of time.
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping’.”
Our shared experiences over the past year with our families, neighbours, communities, and indeed the world, have united us. This is one of the unexpected benefits that the pandemic has offered us for the taking. In this time of continued uncertainty, stress, and change, I suggest that there is no better way to respond than with Fred Rogers’ lessons of empathy, connection, and the opportunity to help others. I believe that this is the real work of humanity and that it preserves and heals the soul.
Family Day 2021: Hello Neighbour!
As we look to Family Day 2021, we can take some of these lessons to heart and act on them. We can find inspiration and inner-strength in Mr. Rogers’ example, and extend our family to include our neighbours, friends and even strangers along our path.
While we continue to maintain physical distance for everyone’s health, each of us still has the opportunity to make a difference for others. As we continue to spend most of our time with family in our own homes, let’s think about how we can become helpers and better neighbours.
Family Day 2021 Challenge!
In previous blogs, I’ve sent out a challenge to readers and here’s one for 2021! On Family Day, this Monday, February 15 (and every day), be a helper! Try some of the suggestions below and see how the people you come in contact with (either within 6 feet or virtually, of course) feel cared for and connected. I hope you’ll find these ideas useful and share them with your families as well as the ones you support in your work.
Make cards to share. With your family members, create cards. Encourage your children to join in with their own pictures and messages. Deliver the notes to your neighbours; perhaps a local senior’s residence or hospital. Hand them out to strangers you see on your travels. Imagine the lasting impact of this simple gesture.
Share in a project. Many groups are already rallying friends and neighbours to share in common projects and activities. Capture your outdoor adventures on video or in photos, create a community time capsule, or build birdhouses to keep our feathered friends sheltered from the cold February days. Connect on a virtual platform like Zoom to share your ideas and progress.
Take a walk and SMILE at everyone you see. Smiles are contagious and make everyone feel better.
“Be a helper” coupons. Handing out coupons for helping with everyday tasks like shoveling driveways, preparing a meal, or reading a story together will surely lift spirits – the coupon recipients and yours. Be creative.
Commit to regular check-in calls with those who may be alone and lonely.
Plan a virtual games night with family, friends and neighbours. There are lots of apps and ideas online for virtual all-ages fun.
Welcome to the neighbourhood! Come on in!
One of our collective tasks in raising the next generation is to create an understanding of what it feels like to have empathy, compassion, and to care for those around us – in good times and in bad. Let’s make an effort to share generously the good in ourselves and our families, and see the good in others.
By Beth Williams, Our Kids Network Communications Manager
While physical distancing, masking, and staying home became typical, it was encouraging and inspiring to see Halton professionals using innovative ways to continue their work supporting children, youth and families. Our strong and resilient partnerships and communities are getting us through this! We have adapted to our new routines and not only stayed connected, but have become more interconnected over the last 10 months (and counting).
In survival mode, we’ve all become experts at using Microsoft Teams, Webex, Zoom and other platforms, and used these venues well to continue to build relationships and partnerships, get work done, and even start brand new initiatives. We quickly learned that the chat feature gives everyone at the meeting a voice!
In the absence of face-to-face committee meetings, where so much information is shared, we launched the OKN Community Message in March. The intent was to keep everyone updated and linked to OKN’s key activities and news. At the time, we believed this would be a short-term solution. Here it is December and the OKN Community Message continues to serve us well, with one due out this week.
With gatherings allowed in only very limited numbers, virtual (live and recorded) is now the media of choice for OKN staff offering workshops and information sessions. Recently, Angela Bellegarde, OKN Indigenous lead, partnered with staff at the Town of Oakville and Oakville Public Library to produce videos on Indigenous literacy and territorial acknowledgements. Liz Wells, OKN Researcher & Knowledge Broker, and Eileen Palermo, OKN Program Administrator, produced a live webinar on the Early Development Instrument (EDI), and the popular Relationships First workshop went virtual with facilitator Steve Levac, Manager of Youth Services, Halton Children’s Aid Society.
The Halton Youth Initiative used social media to embark on a year-long Truth and Reconciliation journey that resulted in increased participation from the members and expanded engagement of youth across Halton.
In November, OKN called together professionals from Halton community organizations and agencies to help determine the key priorities that OKN will focus on to positively impact children, youth and families in the future. This was an interactive and thought-provoking virtual conference. The primary focus was ensuring that professionals who work with children and youth have a role in decision-making. We then have a common agenda across Halton.
“I believe that it will be about the chance to strengthen our resiliency and relationships, and build deep, nurturing interdependence. Now more than ever, we understand how interconnected and reliant we are on each other – in our families, in our communities, and on a global level.”
Senior Manager, Early Years and Family Supports, Oakville Parent-Child Centre
In her September blog, Nikki Taylor looked at the impact of the pandemic on Halton children as they returned to school. The longer-term impact of COVID-19 on children was also a key, common concern across professionals during the OKN Planning Conference in November.
We recognize now, while we all share this life-changing experience of the pandemic, how important we are to each other – in our families and friendships and, just as significantly, among our colleagues. At the OKN Planning Conference, participants pointed out that professionals working with families, youth and children are also members of their own families, and are in need of care themselves.
Our Kids Network leads the Asset-Building movement in Halton, a community investment in positive child and youth development. Building on this work will be paramount in the years to come.
“When this pandemic has ended, what will stand out most in our memories is how we treated each other.”
Resilience: Change happens – what’s next?
Among many other accomplishments, OKN Executive Director, Elena DiBattista has led the OKN plan to grow and strengthen the network by introducing and implementing fundamental frameworks and strategies. In this way, she has built the platform that will launch the next generation of OKN’s work in Halton. And through 2020, she has always been at the helm helping us navigate these challenging new times.
Having announced her retirement, she is preparing (and helping us prepare) for what is next. For Elena, we know that well-deserved time to focus on family and friends is in her future and when it is safe, she will travel to the few exotic locations in the world that she has not yet visited.
We can’t thank you enough, Elena, for your dedication, passion, compassion, and visionary leadership over the past 10 years.
Especially now, it’s critically important that, as a Halton-wide collaborative, we have a view of the overall well-being of children and youth. As committee members work on identifying priorities, they are in the final phase of the restructuring of the network. This final phase represents a new direction for OKN, in aligning the work we do with our refined role and renewed mission and vision.
We are thankful to you, the countless, compassionate professionals who continue to provide essential services to your clients. To support the important work you do, OKN is continuing to focus on building capacity in the professional community, sharing knowledge, and developing resources to assist you.
OKN Resources for Information and Connection
Information on the OKN Community.
Information about OKN Champions.
Structure of Our Kids Network.
Explore the OKN Research.
Information on Asset-Building.