If Your Kids Need Help Coping with the Pandemic, Look to Libraries

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COVID-19 has taken an enormous mental toll on people of all ages; even young children are struggling with grief, isolation, and fear during the pandemic. If you’re wondering about the best way to approach challenging conversations with the kids in your life, turn to children’s library professionals for expert guidance and support.

As part of their #LookToLibraries campaign, the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) has assembled a list of insightful tips for addressing tough topics with kids during times of crisis. Taking inspiration from Mr. Rogers, the guide recommends strategies like using clear and simple language and focusing on the positive. Children’s library professionals from ALSC have also been sharing helpful suggestions for books for younger and older children that explain public health issues or offer ways to manage anxiety.

In addition to these online resources, you can also always call upon available staff at your library for one-on-one help finding information or support. While many libraries are closed to the public due to the pandemic, you can still get in touch with a children’s library professional online or by phone.

“I love helping families navigate tough topics because it gives me the opportunity to connect with my community and serve as a trusted adult in a young person's life,” ALSC president Kirby McCurtis told I Love Libraries. “So many parents or caregivers are afraid of saying the wrong thing, and if I can reassure them and help them start a conversation with a few tools and suggestions and no judgement I feel like I have done a good job. It is an honor to help build bridges in times of trouble.”

One way children’s library professionals can support your family during the pandemic and beyond is by recommending books with relatable stories and inspiring messages. “Children and their caregivers can turn to books for solace and support during times of crisis. Through their stories and illustrations, books can help children understand, navigate, and survive these experiences,” McCurtis explains. “A child who might not be ready to talk about a loss or struggle may find an acknowledgment of their sadness when reading about a similar experience in a book.”

Ultimately, children’s library professionals want families to know that they don’t need to navigate the pandemic on their own. “Parents and caregivers are not in this alone even if we are more physically isolated than at the beginning of the year. Libraries are part of a web of community organizations that support young people and whole families,” Claudia Haines, youth services librarian at Alaska’s Homer Public Library, told I Love Libraries. “I encourage caregivers to reach out to professionals at all community organizations, ask for help, get involved, and advocate for your child and community’s well-being.”

Visit the #LookToLibraries website for even more resources and materials. Plus, check out ALSC President Kirby McCurtis’s appearance on ABC’s “Pandemic: What You Need to Know” explaining how families can lean on children’s library professionals for support.