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June 25, 2020 · OPINION

Helping students cope and develop during pandemic

Contributed Photo
Girls on the Run serves female students in Grade 3-8.
By Kathy Butler
Girls on the Run Piedmont
Executive Director

In the past four months, our everyday lives have been turned upside down. Jobs have been lost or are based on Zoom calls; people are more isolated than ever; household financial landscapes have changed, and anxieties of the uncertainty and unknown are running high.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed life as we know it for everyone, some more than others, and nobody knows what lies ahead.

While adults are making adjustments to ensure their professional responsibilities are met and families are fed, our children are facing similar stressors. Their daily routines have changed; they are navigating remote learning, and many are facing family dynamics they’ve never experienced before.

And, now with the school year over, an important connection for students will be missing. Although a mostly invisible burden, we cannot be blind to what our children are carrying on their shoulders right now, and the long-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic will have on them.

The COVID-19 crisis has been deemed as an adverse childhood experience or ACE, a potentially traumatic event occurring during childhood (ages 0-17) with lasting negative outcomes for health, well-being and opportunities, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While we are not sure of the specific impacts the COVID-19 pandemic will have on our children, it is certain that we need to be intentional about establishing appropriate supportive strategies to give them opportunity for learning emotional regulation and positive coping skills by way of what Dr. Mark Brackett, professor in the Yale University Child Study Center, calls the “permission to feel.”

With so many resources available, it can be difficult to sift through or find the time to figure out what is the right approach for you and your family. Giving permission to feel the loss of so much — friendships, school, important events, activities and sometimes the physical loss of a loved one — and balancing what connection means during this time are just two challenges individuals are facing.

It is important to remember is that children look toward adults for guidance on how to react to stressful events. Take the time to respond with truth and reassurance, and allow for children to write and/or express their thoughts and feelings. Recognize the significant disruption to traditional connection and community, and provide alternative opportunities and activities to strengthen the connections that are feasible at this time.

Deep breathing, intentional focusing on the positives, establishing and maintaining a routine and identifying projects that might help others are all great coping strategies to support ourselves and others during this time.

We’ve been reminded that not all families are fortunate enough to have food and mental and physical security, causing an additional source of stress for some children. If possible, consider a project that supports the needs of others.

Also recognize that we can be the model by demonstrating healthy problem-solving, flexibility and compassion with our ever-changing schedules and balancing work and home responsibilities.

Girls on the Run has provided our adult coaches with the foundation for growth just as much as the girls who participate. As one coach recently reflected on the Spring 2020 GOTR at Home lessons, she shared how the program has translated into her family's everyday life during this time of quarantine.

“We really have adopted a lot of the principles into our everyday life, namely challenging each other to find ways ‘out of our heads to solve our day-to-day problems,” she said. “Also, we try and take time to make our emotions heard and felt. I think now, more than ever, having a way to discuss emotions is essential to mental health.”

Ultimately, offering abundant love and affection will serve to protect our children in a multitude of ways. Establishing a secure connection with an adult provides unlimited opportunities for conversation to help our youth process the current state of their world.

As Kristin Souers, a top professional in the field of trauma has remarked, we are “forever changed, not forever damaged” by trauma. The same is true of the trauma brought forth by COVID-19. Use it to redefine ourselves for the better from this point forward.

Social-emotional learning (SEL) is the process through which children and adults understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships and make responsible decisions. These skills are more relevant than ever as we think about the futures of our girls.

Girls on the Run can serve as a shining light and additional layer of support for much of what our community is facing. The foundation of GOTR is based on our 5Cs +1: Confidence, character, competence, care, connection and contribution.

The Girls on the Run 10-week, research-based, physical activity, positive youth development program integrates the standards of social-emotional learning and has been named one of the top three afterschool social-emotional learning programs in a study completed by Harvard University.

The outcomes of the GOTR program tell a story that is full of promise, as illustrated through these words from a coach: “The girls don’t just learn skills like leadership, decision-making, problem solving and self-advocacy. They also use, teach and model those skills around their non-GOTR classmates. Our girls return to their classrooms and change the world.”

In a longitudinal study, 97 percent of girls learned critical life skills such as resolving conflict, intentional decision-making, helping others and managing emotions at school, home and with friends. These skills are vital as children navigate the challenges of being socially-distanced and will be crucial as we slowly return to a new sense of normal.

When because of school closures, GOTR Piedmont had to discontinue its in-person season this spring, our Heart & Sole girls were provided the opportunity to experience the Girls on the Run transformation by participating in the GOTR at Home activities. Those activities remained tied to the GOTR core values and focused on topics particularly important during the new COVID-19 transition time. The fun and interactive lessons, designed in both written and YouTube video format, provided girls with the opportunity to learn and grow and have an adult join in on the fun.

Along with the discontinuation of our spring in-person programming, our Girls on the Run Summer Camp has also been greatly impacted. We are brainstorming ways to hold our Camp GOTR safely and effectively.

However, because of social distancing and logistics, we may not be able to serve all the girls that would like to experience camp, so we are excited to announce the option to Power Up Activity Kits to provide a fun and meaningful way to keep girls learning, moving and growing in the summer months. While Power Up is not a replacement for the GOTR program, it provides meaningful activities that balance the needs of our girls and families and provides a level of access to all girls in our area.

Looking forward, we will be working with our school districts and community partners to reimagine the GOTR program for the fall 2020 season. This flexible fall program will most likely look different than our traditional in-person, 10-week, curriculum-based program.

Regardless of what it looks like, we will remain steadfast in ensuring we equip girls with the significant tools they need to cross the finish line at our season-culminating 5-K, whether in person or virtually, in a large crowd or a small group.

Whatever learning might look like this fall, Girls on the Run will have the ability to provide flexible program delivery with a nationally-recognized SEL experience to girls in Grades 3-8, led by trained volunteer coaches. The importance of SEL is unmatched and is emerging as a powerful means to support one another during this difficult time.

Our role in helping our families maintain positive mental health and fostering healthy relationships is more critical than ever before. Let’s pray that we will be able to have some physical contact in the fall, so the girls can enjoy the company of their friends and coaches. But whatever happens, our dedication to ensure that girls know and activate their limitless potential will remain steadfast, and we are ready, willing and able to adapt to whatever challenges we face as a community.

You may contact the writer at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Click here for more information about Girls on the Run Piedmont

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HenryCrabtree · August 11, 2020 at 2:18 am
I totally agree with you, online learning is more difficult and it is a huge loss in students education, but the good news is that school will reopen soon! However during this pandemic, I purchased different extra curriculum books and Art and crafts items for my kid from This helps him to improve his drawing and reading skills.
amandabruni · June 30, 2020 at 11:55 am
I think that they are right and most likely everything will end just like that. We have long been observing the trend that learning is becoming more difficult, students are more and more immersed in problems with payment, and therefore I was glad when I found a service that can help them solve their problems with school and complex projects. Although this could slightly ease their burden.
nonewtaxes · June 30, 2020 at 8:35 am
greatest period of economic prosperity in human history and generations x y and z are trying to destroy the system that delivered it through massive wealth transfer programs

look down the road at italy and greece and see your future
NewBmore · June 27, 2020 at 10:19 am
Your brain must be tired from those gymnastics. But keep on screeching.

The only claim to fame for boomers is having been born into one of the greatest periods of economic prosperity in human history. Your insatiable appetite for consumption on credit, without any empathy for future generations as you pull up the ladder, has destroyed the country your parents handed you on a silver platter. Great job. A for effort.

AmericanPatriot · June 27, 2020 at 7:43 am
My lot built the country your lot is trying to destroy.

Better people than you have tried before.
NewBmore · June 26, 2020 at 12:43 pm
Boomers have become a dysfunctional, hysterical, and useless generation. Rising costs of housing - pULl yoUrSElF uP bY yOuR BOoTstRaPS. Stagnant wages - pULl yoUrSElF uP bY yOuR BOoTstRaPS. Inflating costs of higher ed - pULl yoUrSElF uP bY yOuR BOoTstRaPS.

The flu - whine like the a snowflake about "MUH FREEDOM". Completely incapable of making even the smallest sacrifices for the long-term benefit of your country.

Fail to accept that the world has moved on from your antiquated views.

I can't wait to see America in 20 years, when your lot is even more irrelevant.
AmericanPatriot · June 25, 2020 at 6:51 pm
America is raising a dysfunctional, hysterical, useless generation. Too cold - no school. Too windy - no school. Too hot - no school. Dusting of snow - no school.

The flu - shut down completely and cower. Put on useless masks to virtue signal how much you care.

Protest about an incident which happened in a place you can't even find on a map.

I hate to see where America will be in 20 years.
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