It has taken me some time to find the words to write this post. When I first heard about The Imagine Neighborhood, a free podcast that has families using their imaginations to talk about feelings with young children, I was excited. I loved the idea of having a fun way to bond with my little ones while tackling the important task of helping them identify and manage their growing emotions – and these 15 minute fun-to-listen-to episodes seemed like the perfect way to start those conversations. At the time I didn’t know just how valuable this podcast would quickly become.
As Covid-19 rapidly spreads throughout our country we are faced with new challenges on a daily basis. I have five kids home from school. At first they were bored and antsy, but in the last two weeks those feelings have shifted. They are now scared, uncertain and anxious.
To be honest, I am too. I don’t know what’s going to happen over the next few months any more than they do. And yet, I still have to find a way to be their calm. I need to reassure them, and make sure they feel safe.
And that’s where The Imagine Neighborhood comes in. Each 15 minute episode will take families on a captivating adventure filled with animated storytelling and music aimed at helping kids to talk about their feelings. The episodes are geared toward for younger students (4-6 year-olds) but early tests have shown that kids as old as 8 or 9 are engaging with the show, and loving the characters. I can tell you that older kids, and even parents will appreciate the fun and engaging way The podcast is available for free on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play and Stitcher.
The very first episode is about being scared. Something I’m sure every family can relate to right now. In this episode Count Vacula, a robot-vacuum cleaner-vampire, feels worried about the babysitter. Using funny voices, catchy songs and age-appropriate dialog the episode talks about how being scared feels and encourages children to talk to their parents about the things that worry them.
Just last week The Imagine Neighborhood also released a bonus episode, Talking To Kids About Coronavirus Fears. In this episode Dr. Sherri, a developmental psychologist, helps parents talk to their children about worrisome things in the news, difficult changes in schedules and fears about the world outside.
I listened to this episode with my family just the other day. I loved that this episode explained that even parents can be scared, and that these feelings are normal, and can help us to protect ourselves. The episode continues to give kids actionable ways to help keep themselves healthy and encourages both parents and kids to turn to experts for advice and to talk to each other about how we’re feeling.
This episode in particular helped us begin the conversation with out children about safe places to get our information from, and the difference between being panicked and being informed. I couldn’t believe how many questions my kids had about ccoronavirus that they had been afraid to ask! It gave us the opportunity to look up information together. Knowing the facts helped my kids feel less afraid, and we also came up with a list of ways we can help to keep ourselves safe, which has been really reassuring for them.
The Imagine Neighborhood is presented by Committee for Children, a non-profit that has been providing innovative Social Emotional Learning Curriculum for over 40 years. Their Second Step Curriculum has been used for over 35 years and can be found in over half the elementary schools in the U.S.! The Imagine Neighborhood allows parents to access these same tools outside of the classroom, ensuring caregivers have the tools to help their children thrive socially and emotionally.
In these strange and frightening times I hope we are all finding ways to connect in meaningful ways without families. Parents are having to fill unexpected roles in the last few weeks – playing teacher as schools close around the country, navigating food shortages, inability to get to work, financial uncertainty and filling the shoes of counselor to kids who are scared, unsure and anxious about what will happen as this pandemic unfolds.
I hope we can come together over the next couple of months, finding new ways to support each other, even as we distance ourselves physically. Programs like The Imagine Neighborhood and other great online tools are here to help us through this difficult time. Let’s utilize them and our wonderful online communities of friends and neighbors to come together and come out of this stronger, closer and better prepared.