A PCL Family's Story of Staying Connected During Stay Home, Stay Safe by Heather Sohn
Physical distancing and social distancing are two very different things. We may have to be physically distant from each other for everyone's health and safety, but that doesn't mean we have to be socially isolated. Sometimes we just have to get creative!
Staying connected to our son when he is 2 1/2 hours away from us has been a challenge for our family over this past year. We talk to him via FaceTime daily (sometimes several times a day), text during the day, call each other, and do the best we can to make sure we are a part of his daily life as much as possible. And we have always made an effort to do in persons visits, either where he lives for a day out or visits to our house for a family weekend, every few weeks to maintain our family connections. After all, as great as an electronic connection is for daily communication, it can never take the place of the hugs, cuddles, tickle fights and physical presence that is so important in a family.
And then COVID-19 happened.
First school was cancelled, disrupting his daily routine and threatening the structure that he needs in order to stay grounded and keep challenging behaviors to a minimum. But even though the need for social distancing made it harder to keep him occupied, we still looked forward to a planned weekend with our boy. We would bring him home and spend a fun weekend in our pj's, watching movies, playing games and enjoying the Central Oregon sunshine and fresh air together. Alas, the Governor's order to "Stay Home and Stay Safe," meant that our plans had to be put on hold as well. Immediately I started to worry. Would he understand why we weren't picking him up to spend the weekend with us? Why we weren't showing up to visit him and take him out for some shopping and fun? How were we going to keep our connection to him when we have no idea how long this will last or when we will see him face to face again? One way I managed to help him in times of stress has always been to remind him that we would see him soon. But rights now I can't say that.
My family and I put on our thinking caps. We needed a way to remind our boy that he is loved. And not just by us, but by his whole extended group of family and friends. We also wanted to do something to help break up his days, help keep boredom from setting in, and give him something to look forward to without making promises we can't keep. We decided to start sending care packages. Phillip has always loved giving and receiving presents. Just little things that would make him smile and think of us. A small gift, a favorite treat, or even just a card with his favorite characters on it....anything to bring some joy into the long days of quarantine. But we decided not to stop there. Our friends and family are mostly quarantined as well. Why not ask them to help? It would give them a project, help everyone feel more connected, and they could make a difference in a very tough time for everyone. I contacted as many of our family and friends as I could think of (so thankful that Facebook let me do it quickly and easily), letting everyone know the situation and that Phillip would love to hear from them. We were delighted to see the response from both close friends and family, as well as from some we hadn't seen in years, who have only met Phillip through pictures and stories on Facebook. Several immediately stepped up, asking me for his mailing address and ideas of what to send. Soon I started getting excited calls from our boy, telling me all about the treasures he had received that day. There were cards, stickers, small toys, movies to share with his housemates, treats...all of his favorite things. I often had to explain to him who the packages came from, and how they knew him. This opened up the door for conversations we have never had with our sone before, and expanded his world, even from inside the confines of quarantine. And we haven't stopped. Easter is coming, and his birthday in May...all of these are great times to remind him that we are still here, and that we are still family, even though it looks different right now. The love is the same.
Thank you Heather, for sharing your family's story with all of us. It was great to connect with so many of you during our "IN THE KNOW" family edition. Here at PCL, we appreciate staying connected with all of you. We are currently working on an ongoing family connection page on thePCL website. In the meantime, please join us every Thursday for PCL's generalIN THE KNOWwhere you can find updated PCL information related to COVID-19. As always we are here for you. Please reach out to Gwen Whelton for any of your needs firstname.lastname@example.org