Duval Dialogue – Maintaining Social Connectedness

April 20, 2020 – Earlier this month, we learned from Katrina Taylor – Director of Schools Behavioral Health – that combating this pandemic is more than just an external fight. It is internal as well.

The same care and vigilance we take with social distancing, and using gloves and masks to protect our bodies, we also need to take with protecting our mental health and well-being.

So how do we take the words of Katrina and apply them to our own situations?

That’s where I step in. My name is Alex, and I grew up in the Duval County Public Schools system. My hope is to create a fun and informative dialogue with you, our school community, about issues that matter to you.

So let’s dive in! Katrina spoke last week about Social Connectedness and the importance of maintaining connections with loved ones. Here are some ideas to live this out daily.

  • Reach out to elderly and at-risk friends – This is an especially hard time for all of us, but particularly those in vulnerable populations. Keep in contact with these people in your life by calling them, sending them pictures so they see how you’re doing, or even share a video. I’ve been texting my grandparents videos of my guinea pigs searching for cherry tomatoes. I know, probably not the most captivating television, but I think my grandparents appreciate that I’m working to involve them even in the mundane things in my life. Look at it this way: since nothing is really going on right now – vacations, parties, sports – even the smallest things in your day are an adventure. So, share them!
  • Continue to celebrate milestones creatively – It’s not as easy to pop into a store and buy gifts or mail packages, but that should not stop us from celebrating our loved ones’ birthdays, graduations and other milestones. Call, email or text loved ones to share what their milestone means to everyone. If you’re not much of a writer, collect video affirmations from friends and relatives talking directly to the person in question. It’s even nice for the people in the same home to do it over a meal, taking turns going around the table to say something nice about whoever is celebrating a special occasion.
  • Set a standing date with someone every day – For me, I’ve been calling my sister to check in and say hi to my nephews every day around 3. I ask little Brucey what he learned at school. I put on a cat selfie filter and get Rudy to say ‘kitty cat.’ And my sister and I chat about how this is affecting life and what we’re doing to keep our day exciting. It’s nice to have a person to journey with; someone outside the home with whom you can share your frustrations, joys, and day-to-day life.
  • Check in on someone you haven’t spoken to lately – Sometimes I scroll through my phone and find someone I haven’t heard from in a while. Maybe it’s been a month. This is the perfect time for me to call them, see how they’re doing and let them know I was thinking about them.
  • Practice acts of service in your home – We’re all on edge, and it can be easier for us to get irritated by the little things. What better way to ease tensions than to find radical ways to love the people around you? Some of us have our regular chores we do, but how about going out of your way to do something outside of your normal responsibilities? If you usually empty the garbage cans, then take it a step further and wipe all the cans down so they’re nice and clean. If you usually do the dishes, organize the Tupperware cabinet so everything looks nice. If you usually dust the shelves, go further and vacuum the house too. There’s never been a better time to get the nitty gritty cleaning done and to organize. Not just that, but acts of service are a great way to express your love to the people in your home.
  • Stay connected with your activities – If you’re on a soccer team or in a knitting group, talk to each other about how you’re keeping your skills sharp. What are some of your favorite memories in soccer history? What knitting patterns are you downloading? Do you play an instrument in a band? Make a short video to share. The beautiful thing about shared interests is that it’s an easy way to connect with people, even in times like this.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. In fact, please write me at poolerm@duvalschools.org to share what has worked for you. And remember, I want to keep this dialogue going! Write me about any important topics in our school community that you want to talk about.