As many young learners head back to the classroom this fall amid concerns surrounding the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the simple act of washing your hands can have life-saving consequences. But getting kids to wash their hands isn’t always easy. That’s where today’s super silly guest comes in!
Today I’m talking with Certified Child Life Specialist Katie Taylor. Katie is the host of the popular podcast Child Life on Call, which shares stories from parents whose children have a variety of illnesses—from meningitis to Chron’s disease to cancer and more—and tackles challenging topics, like NICU stays and how to talk to kids about the Coronavirus. Her newest project, The Super Silly Wash Your Hands Dance picture book, aims to help parents protect their kiddos by making hand washing simple and fun. Katie is the perfect person to teach kids how to wash their hands because she sees firsthand the BIG impact of this simple habit through her work with chronically and acutely ill children and their families.
Please enjoy my interview with Katie Taylor…
Erika Liodice: Hi, Katie. Thanks for joining us today to talk with parents of school-aged children who may be feeling uncertain about the safety of sending their kids back to the classroom this fall. Tell us, what inspired you to write The Super Silly Wash Your Hands Dance picture book?
Katie Taylor: Hi, Erika. Thanks for having me. As adults, we are living in a world that feels out of control in so many ways. If we are feeling this way, imagine how our kids feel. That’s why it’s so important for parents to recognize how we can support our children in an easy, effective and positive way.
When the Covid-19 pandemic began, I started considering how I could serve a role in my community. I knew that there would be a lot of unknowns, and I wanted to focus on what kids COULD control during this time. I also wanted to incorporate parents by giving them a tool to use with their kids. Thus, the Super Silly Wash Your Hands Dance book was born.
With the help of my five-year-old son, Wesley, I picked four animals and created a short story that focuses on when and how to wash your hands. It discusses different scenarios when hand washing should be done, breaks it down into a memorable four-step process, and, of course…is super silly!
EL: Tell us about your work as a Child Life Specialist.
KT: I have been a child life specialist for over 10 years and have worked in both inpatient and outpatient settings, with both chronically and acutely ill children and their families. I help children and their families navigate unexpected and difficult situations.
As a child life specialist, I work as a part of the healthcare team to advocate for children’s needs and provide support to make their experience as easy as possible. I use developmentally appropriate education and teach coping skills to both kids and their parents.
EL: What inspired you to start the Child Life on Call podcast? Who is this podcast for? What topics does it cover?
KT: Along with supporting children, I think it’s important to focus on supporting parents, too. Once I became a mom, I had a light bulb moment. I realized that kids who cope well have parents that have the tools to help them. I also realized that parents often feel isolated and overwhelmed themselves when their child is sick, so I created the Child Life On Call podcast, which offers community and safe space for parents to share their stories. Over three years and 35 episodes strong, I put out new episodes each month.
EL: What advice do you have for parents of children who are back in school during the pandemic?
KT: Whether kids are attending school virtually or in a classroom setting, we want to empower them to feel like they are in control of their own bodies, feel safe, and help them cope with their emotions.
Challenges begin to arise from certain safety requirements, like mask wearing—especially when children have to wear them all day at school. My first piece of advice is to remind them that mask wearing is not forever, it’s just for the time they’re at school. They don’t have to wear a mask when they’re at home or playing in the backyard; it’s just for the time they spend at school. Understanding that it’s not forever makes it more manageable for them.
My second piece of advice is to focus on the why and personalize it. Remind them why they need to do it (because wearing a mask helps prevent the germs from spreading far) and who they’re doing it for specifically (it helps protects your teacher, the librarian, janitor, your best friend). By personalizing who the mask benefits, it takes a vague concept and paints a specific picture of why it’s important.
Third, give them a safe space to talk about their concerns and frustrations. Set a time after school to talk with them about their experience. Ask how it felt to wear the mask all day. Listen to their fears and thoughts so you can help them deal with the emotions that surface. (For more on this topic, watch Katie’s video, “How to Help Your Child Prepare for Back to School During the Pandemic” »)
On the other side of the coin are parents who are juggling the demands of virtual schooling. Many feel they’re being thrown into it without much—or any—preparation on how to guide their children through this new, and often frustrating, world. I developed a Three-Strike Response System to help parents respond effectively when their kids start shutting down during the virtual learning process.
A BIG thanks to Katie Taylor for dropping by today to share her wisdom and experience with us.
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