Kindness and compassion are the building blocks of empathy. Right now, when many people are experiencing hardships related to Covid, more empathy is just what we need. And in times like these, a little kindness can go an especially long way.
It’s important for grown-ups to encourage—and model—showing kindness and compassion toward all people, especially those who may have or have had coronavirus, or those who may be at higher risk for exposure. Grown-ups can remind children that Covid affects everyone. We’ve all experienced changed plans and needed to do old things in new ways. And most families know someone who’s gotten sick. Even so, sometimes those people on the frontlines or who have gotten sick experience stigma, and others may treat them unfairly or unkindly. The resources in this bundle will help families talk about stigma and encourage kids and grown-ups alike to show empathy.
In this video, we learn that Grover’s uncle Georgie has been treated unfairly. Together, Grover, Elmo, and Grover’s mom talk through some big feelings, discuss why people might act or speak unkindly to others, and eventually find a way to do something helpful.
- Before watching: Talk with children about what they know about Covid and if they know anyone who’s been affected.
- While you watch: Notice the language that Grover’s mom uses—even those who say or do unkind things aren’t necessarily bad people. Keep in mind that we’re all coping as best we can in difficult times.
- After watching: Think about people you know who have been affected by Covid and do something such as draw a picture or give them a call to show them you care.
Recognizing and Overcoming Stigma
What is stigma and why does it happen?
Social stigma involves negative attitudes and beliefs about certain people, places, or things. Stigma can can lead to discrimination and other hurtful behavior, and stigma hurts everyone. It can also make it harder for people to get the medical care they need.
In stressful situations like these, people may feel fear, anxiety, or confusion. Negative emotions like these, paired with lack of information, can unfortunately lead to unkind or unfair thoughts, including blaming thoughts, about others.
How can I help?
Address Big Feelings
If you, your child, or someone you know is experiencing stigma, acknowledge their feelings and do your best to offer comfort. Let them know that they are important and loved. Remind them that you’re here for them to talk and listen.
You may have heard that knowledge is power, and when it comes to reducing stigma, that’s definitely the case. Misinformation can be one reason that people feel afraid and say or do hurtful things. It can help to keep learning the facts, and to maintain an attitude of openness, curiosity, and compassion. Consider these suggestions:
- Rely on trusted sources for information.
- Share facts about how to stay healthy.
- Model best practices for mask wearing, hand washing, and distancing.
- Keep an open mind about others and remember that each family will need to decide what’s best for them.
- Show compassion and offer support to those who are more closely impacted by the virus.
Be Kind to All
It’s especially important for grown-ups to encourage—and model—showing kindness and compassion toward all people, especially those who may have or have had coronavirus or those people in our communities who may be at higher risk for exposure. Review the ideas in the picture, then consider these suggestions:
- Give a wave. Hugs and handshakes might not be possible, but a big wave to say hello can let someone know you see them and care about them. Try waving in new ways: wave your “trunk” like an elephant, give an air-five, or invite others to join you in a community wave, as if you were at a sporting event!
- Say thank you. Healthcare workers, responders, shop clerks, delivery drivers, and others are all working hard to keep our communities running. They may also be at more risk for exposure to the virus, and therefore, to stigma. When you can, express your appreciation for their hard work.
- Pick up the phone. A phone or video call can really turn someone’s day around, especially if they are or have been sick.
Making a Plan to Stay Connected
Life in the time of Covid can feel lonely, even if your family is healthy. Those who are more susceptible to the virus, or those who have been sick, may feel a deeper loneliness. We can help our family, friends, and neighbors feel supported by making a plan to stay connected.
This printable shows how Elmo is staying connected with his loved ones. Together with your family, brainstorm ways you can keep in touch, too!