Episode 4 - Supporting Our Children During COVID-19 w/ Rachel Busman

Episode Summary 
While practicing social distancing from their own homes, host Danielle Scorrano interviews Dr. Rachel Busman, the Senior Director of the Anxiety Disorders Center, Director of the Selective Mutism Service at the Child Mind Institute, and a faculty member of The Windward Institute. Dr. Busman provides her expertise on how families and educators can support children at home and from a distance. Dr. Busman shares applicable strategies that benefit children, and insights on proactively managing our own self-care as adults, even during this uncertain time. This episode was recorded in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak, which, in April 2020, had already significantly affected daily life.

“We are all under unprecedented levels of stress, meaning we have this situation that is happening that we have no context for… it is natural to feel stress, a little more irritable, and even anxious about it.”

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Host Danielle Scorrano's top highlighted takeaways from this episode.

  1. Many of our children are demonstrating incredible resilience during this time. However, children and teenagers are notably most stressed by the changing demands of school and life as well as managing emotions related to uncertainty about the world around them. 

2. Language can be a powerful tool to support children in managing their stress and fears related to a changing and uncertain environment.

  • When talking about the stress around COVID-19, parents and educators should use simple, direct language that is appropriate for the child’s age.
  • Ask questions.
  • Validate the children’s experience and provide opportunities for open communication.

“There’s sometimes fear that we’re not supposed to talk about something because that will make my child more anxious… You shouldn’t be afraid to open a door of communication but also not push all the things that you as a parent are thinking about.”

3. Even from a distance, the efforts that educators are making on online platforms are helping to cultivate a sense of belonging for their students. Educators can continue to connect with their students and help them manage changing academic demands by:

  • proactively taking time to check in with students about how they are feeling to support their social-emotional well-being
  • previewing and chunking information related to expectations and future assignments

“[When educators cultivate belonging,] kids are going to feel taken care of, and I think it will ultimately help the learning process in the weeks to come because kids will feel that [my teacher] gets it.”

4. Parents and educators are models for social-emotional wellbeing for children, and it is important for us to practice self-care. Dr. Busman recommends strategies including: 

  • taking healthful breaks to sustain energy levels throughout the day
  • modeling non-anxious coping for our kids
  • finding your “village”


Child Mind Institute COVID-19 Resources

Dr. Busman will be presenting at Windward's Community Lecture on October 22, 2020. Her lecture is titled "How Families and Educators Can Address Anxiety." More information about the Community Lecture series.

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READ Podcast is produced by The Windward School and The Windward Institute. READ is hosted by Danielle Scorrano.

About READ: READ, the Research Education ADvocacy Podcast connects you with prominent researchers, thought leaders, and educators who share their work, insights, and expertise about current research and best practices in fields of education and child development.
Note: All information and insights shared demonstrate the expertise and views of our guests.