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I hope that this message finds each of you and your loved ones healthy and happy. Our new article, Stay Safe in Your Imagination, shows how to apply the skills and values we teach to deal with the fears of the current pandemic and to take effective action.

This message is to tell you about preparations and adjustments we are doing ourselves at Kidpower centers and locations around the world. You are welcome to use or share any of this language for your own communications.

The safety and well-being of everyone connected in any way to Kidpower – including the people we serve and the people who work with us – are our top priority. We err on the side of safety in a rational way, taking the advice of reliable and well-informed resources, adjusting to change, and doing our best to make the essential safety skills and knowledge we provide accessible to everyone, everywhere in person and online.

Much of the prevention part of what we are doing is what we have always done – only more so! Here is what we are telling our Centers and instructors.

Reminders of What We Always Should Be Doing

1. Make staying in good health your top priority! Supporting the health and well being of everyone who works with Kidpower and everyone we serve is one of our core values. Take care of the basics. Keep your physical resistance high by getting enough sleep, eating healthy food, reducing stress, and exercising. Protect your emotional health by using your Screen Technique in assessing what information is important and useful, and what is unhelpful and creating harmful anxiety. Use Target Denial to limit and manage your media diet. In a calm, practical way, arrange to have about a two-week supply of food, clean water, medicines, and other necessities on hand so you can be comfortable if you need to stay home for a while.

2. Take extra care to protect yourself and others from germs! If you are teaching, bring soap, hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, and tissues to your class. If you can’t get these products, make your own. Our physician advisors say that hand sanitizers should contain a minimum of 60% ethyl alcohol to be effective, and some advised that straight 70% rubbing alcohol can also work as a disinfectant. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is providing up-to-date information and resources for teachers, parents, and childcare programs to help prevent the spread of the virus.

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water, scrubbing the front and back of your hands and wrists, between your fingers and your fingernails, for at least 20 seconds (FYI, sing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice = 20 seconds, and here’s a playlist of other songs you can use).
  • Sneeze into a tissue and throw it away – then clean your hands.
  • Cough or sneeze into your elbow rather than your hand.
  • Don’t touch your face with your hands unless they are clean.
  • Wipe down shared surfaces with disinfecting wipes.
  • If you are sick, don’t teach.
  • Remind adults not to come to class and not to have students come to class if they have a cold, feel ill, have a headache, or have a fever.

3. Protect the emotional health of others. Think First about what you say and take charge of the emotional climate in your classes and other communications. With children and with adults, be sure to communicate calm awareness and useful knowledge rather than fear. Interrupt someone who is expressing a lot of worry where kids or other vulnerable people can overhear and, if appropriate, offer to talk with them privately later. Say, “Excuse me. Let’s not talk about this right now.” You can do this for yourself as well.

Changes in Practices During This Epidemic

1. Keep evaluating the situation where you are living and/or working.

Remind people not to come to class for at least two weeks after they have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 coronavirus. If you learn that you have been exposed to COVID-19, please let your Center Director and the Executive Director know and follow public health guidelines by planning to self-quarantine for two weeks. Notify your doctor.

2. If there are reported cases of COVID-19 in a community you are serving or where you are living, take extra precautions for in-person services:

  • Avoid physical contact with your students. Pretend to touch rather than actually touching. In California, because of the extra physical contact in Full Force workshops, we are not offering these workshops, at least for the next few weeks.
  • Be more stringent than usual in not teaching workshops unless you feel really well and comfortable doing so. This means not teaching if you start to feel that you might be getting ill and not teaching if you don’t feel safe. If you have allergies or a lingering non-contagious cough, tell the organizer and your workshop participants so that they aren’t worried.
  • Don’t prepare food that will be shared communally by students. Packaged food that you hand out is okay or you can tell people to be sure to bring their own snacks.
  • Tell parents/caregivers/guardians and workshop organizers to please have students and anyone participating in OR observing the workshop stay home if they are ill. Let them know that we will give them a full credit for another workshop later and that we will be available for questions or help with specific concerns long distance in the meantime. Remind them that, if an instructor gets ill, we might need to reschedule a workshop at the last minute.
  • Give parents/caregivers/guardians, workshop organizers, and adult students the option of postponing their workshop without a penalty.

3. Follow the guidelines in your country in terms of restrictions on attendance because of travel.
In the U.S., the Center for Disease Control currently directs that, “depending on your travel history, you will be asked to stay home for a period of 14 days from the time you left an area with widespread or ongoing community spread (Level 3 Travel Health Notice),” a list that as of March 7th includes China, Iran, Italy, and South Korea: For this reason, we in the U.S. should ask that people who have been in one of the Level 3 Travel Health Notice Areas within 14 days of the workshop not attend as participants, instructors, assistants, or observers.

And please, in spite of this concern, please remember to ENJOY. In 2003, my parents, who were in their late 70s, went to China on a three-week Elderhostel trip, letting us know that they would not have access to Internet or phone service most of the time. Just after they left, the SARS virus became an epidemic in China. Although all the later Elderhostel trips were cancelled, theirs continued. For two weeks, I fretted, waiting to hear from them, reading the news anxiously, and stopping myself from sending them any concerned messages. Finally, a short email arrived from my mother, who knew me well, saying, “IRENE, STOP WORRYING! WE ARE HAVING A GREAT TIME! LOVE, LILY!”

For more information about how to prevent infection in child care centers and schools, please see: 

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Published: March 11, 2020   |   Last Updated: March 11, 2020

Kidpower Founder and Executive Irene van der Zande is a master at teaching safety through stories and practices and at inspiring others to do the same. Her child protection and personal safety expertise has been featured by USA Today, CNN, Today Moms, the LA Times, and The Wall Street Journal. Publications include: cartoon-illustrated Kidpower Safety Comics and Kidpower Teaching Books curriculum; Bullying: What Adults Need to Know and Do to Keep Kids Safe; the Relationship Safety Skills Handbook for Teens and Adults; Earliest Teachable Moment: Personal Safety for Babies, Toddlers, and Preschoolers; The Kidpower Book for Caring Adults: Personal Safety, Self-Protection, Confidence, and Advocacy for Young People, and the Amazon Best Seller Doing Right by Our Kids: Protecting Child Safety at All Levels.