Mary Deter-Billings, Employee Relations Specialist
This year’s first day of school drop-off was different in many ways, but one of the most notable differences was my boys’ eagerness and excitement to get back into a classroom. No tears, no “tummy aches,” no dragging of feet. Even my shy, attached-to-my-hip pre-k’er jumped out of the car ready to take on his new school, only pausing to turn around and ask what his teacher’s name was again. It served as a reminder that just as much as us adults are craving normalcy and social interactions outside of our quarantine bubble, so are our kiddos.
Whether you have chosen to go the virtual school route or are simply facing the possibility of brick and mortar schools moving to an online format, you likely have worries and concerns about your children’s mental health and lack social interactions. I know I do. This summer, my family took advantage of several resources and activities to help keep us connected while safely social distancing. As we move into fall and continue to navigate a balance of physical and emotional wellness, here are some of my favorite kid-focused social opportunities and resources I wanted to share.
Online learning/social platforms
There are several online videos/social platforms out there. My favorite so far has been www.outschool.com. This website has tons of virtual classes on varying topics; how to speak new languages, performing the perfect pirouette, math/reading, problem-solving escape rooms and social clubs. My sons particularly like participating in Minecraft School – the all-things Minecraft social club, where they discuss their favorite game with other kids from all over the world. Another platform to check out: www.wideopenschool.org.
Local small group classes/camps
While having 20 plus kids stuffed into a small classroom for hours every day may be a bad idea, small-class activities may be a good alternative that provides kids with the social interaction they need. One of my favorites is through the Edmond Fine Arts Institute. They offer art and theatre classes for ages 3 and up. These class sizes are small and offered both during the school day and after. Another option to check out: Oklahoma City Zoo Schools Out day camps and homeschool programs.
Deer Oaks Concierge Service
My kid is a little monkey who will not stop climbing the walls – but it is going to take forever to find an activity that meets my schedule, is the right price point and is practicing COVID precautions I’m comfortable with! Ask no further. When you reach out to a Deer Oaks work/life specialist, they will do all that research for you – and present you with your options. Whether you are looking for local gymnastics, dance studios, jiu-jitsu, art studio, basketball etc., work/life specialists will help you find these local classes that also meet your family’s unique needs. Learn more about Deer Oaks EAP services on the People Hub.
EAP Counseling through Deer Oaks
Mental wellness is important at all ages. Did you know that all household members, ages eight and up, have access to six free counseling sessions (per person, per issue, per calendar year) through Deer Oaks? Children age eight and up are eligible for family counseling and children 14 and up are eligible for individual counseling through this free benefit. To start your counseling services, call 1-866-327-2400.
But there are more resources available! These are just some of my favorites that have worked well for my family, but everyone’s needs are different during this time. The Employee Care and Support page has a plethora of family resources for you to explore.