Connecting During a Pandemic: A Journey

Mar. 24, 2020

Schools are closed. Families are told to STAY AT HOME. The catchphrase is “social distancing,” then refined to “physical distancing.” It is clear that for mental health, we all need to connect, and young people, more than any other group.

As an organization that exists to amplify the work of each social agency toward improving well-being, it is still within Erin Mills Connects’ power to do that.

I heard on CBC Radio One yesterday of an online choir practice. Apparently, it didn’t sound wonderful, but it got people together doing what makes them happy.

Closer to home, The Dam, a youth drop-in and outreach organization, developed a platform (with a youth’s help) to connect the young people who could no longer meet to play pool, share meals and volunteer. They meet online at The Dam on Discord.

Likewise, Mary N., Erin Mills Connects’ co-founder, is never stopped by a barrier. She and a few other Steering Committee members are working to turn a face-to-face Community Forum at Meadowvale Community Centre into an online/phone meeting on Zoom. We had arranged to have a speaker from the University of Toronto Mississauga talk about Social and Emotional Learning. We will pivot our discussion to, “How are you helping the families in West Mississauga? How can we help each other?” We are also exploring asking a psychologist to give tips to keep kids from feeling untethered.

It will be an experiment. Will those who are working hard to keep other’s anxieties in check have time to share, and others of us who are sidelined feel engaged enough to login on Apr. 8?

This segment of “Kids’ Wellness” blog will track our progress of helping provide skills for well-being without direct access to youth, and whether we will discover a new need for online resources for parents and guardians. Check back to read about our progress.

In the meantime, Mary and I will investigate holding a large community meeting on Zoom, and use “breakout” rooms for small group discussions so everyone has their say.

Mar. 26, 2020

Mary and I are waiting. We asked our two experts in the field who are working with families about continuing with the Community Forum via Zoom on the eighth. One wants to hold off and the other suggests we go ahead, responding as accurately as possible to the new situation with advice from a professional. As you know, attempts to “plank the curve” change daily, as do the trials on residents.

Mary is checking if another of our partners would be able to present some tactics for helping curb kids’ anxieties.
So we wait another few days to see where we stand and how we can help.

Mar. 31, 2020

The announcement came down today. Ontario schools will be closed for another month. It isn’t surprising as the severity of the situation becomes very real. The Erin Mills Connects Steering Committee called a meeting yesterday for Thursday to discuss our strategies to reach neighbourhood families with advice to cope with social isolation and anxiety. I will also have the chance to speak with Ann Douglas, of Happy Parents Happy Kids fame. Ann spoke to our parent/guardian group a year ago, and if anyone can tease calm out of a storm, it’s Ann. Stay tuned.

Apr. 5, 2020

The Steering Committee met by Zoom last week to discuss strategies to deliver programming. It was a somber group with many feeling the economic impact and cost of physical distancing measures to fight COVID-19. It was also a little therapeutic. We looked at our lives, and what we’ve heard and decided to go ahead with a Community Forum by Zoom later in April. A few of us will reach out to psychology professionals who may be willing to provide some ideas to our community about dealing with loss. We will also have a parent/guardian event by webinar in May.

Decision and action feels good.

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