“C” is for COVID-19 and Communication, Communication, Communication AND… Cocooning, Cleanliness, Care, Cheeriness, Creation, Cuddles, and Cookies!

by Linda Starnes

In anticipation of the April 2020 edition of Complex Child, which was to focus on communication, I planned to submit an article on our family’s use of many forms of communication through the years. However, with the extraordinary changes in our world due to the Novel Coronavirus — a.k.a. COVID-19 — I applaud the magazine’s quick decision to have the next set of published articles support families like ours through the COVID-19 challenges we all face.

communication signBut then I realized so much of what we are dealing with comes down to communication, communication, and more communication — the very topic we were to share about in April. Much is already swirling about COVID-19 online and in the news in the way of information, mandates, and advice by those far more informed. That said, as a parent of one with complex care needs, as well as the daughter of an elderly mother now secluded in her assisted living center apartment, communication has become all the more important on any number of fronts.

So here come the “C’s”… my two Cents on three main Communication Concepts to Consider during the Chronicles of COVID-19, Complete with detailed Components!

1. Communicate Often

Now that so many of us are sheltering in place and practicing social distancing (which I predict will become the top catch-phrase of 2020!), consistent communication is all the more important to stay informed and share pertinent information with others in your life. Stay connected each day with those beyond the walls of your primary residence, and endeavor for more abiding, substantial communication with loved ones doing life with you inside your home.

2. Communicate Across Your Community Circle

Social isolation is all the more reason to stay in touch with our family, friends, workmates, and community.

  • Immediate Family: Our immediate family within our home, or who might live elsewhere, need to know they can talk with us about the unexpected situation affecting our country and the world. Children gain comfort from asking questions and feel the relief of easy-to-understand responses they can trust.
  • Extended Family: Our extended family and friends want to know how we are faring, and we will want to know the same of them. The chance to compare notes, get a new recipe to try out, or share an entertainment idea allows us to focus on supporting one another from afar.
  • Work: Our workmates will also likely have a concern about the general updates of life among one another. A caring check-in with them is important as the employment environment shifts into new territory each day. After these important connections, we are better able to discuss progress on work-from-home projects, or to collaborate on current work initiatives and long-range planning.
  • Community: Our larger community of neighbors, acquaintances from our recreational and faith-based activities, and local public officials is another important communication circle. Touching base to see how we might lend a helping hand can make a big difference in someone else’s life, as well as give us a boost of well-being in providing a service.

3. Communicate in Different and New Ways While “Cocooning”

During times of required or chosen “cocooning,” it’s easy to just rely on a screen for our communication and entertainment. However, now is a great opportunity to communicate in different ways…to explore new ways for your family to connect. Much information being shared across all media on how to fill our days suggest avoiding too much screen time, especially for our children. There are many lists you can find on activities to do with your family.

Here are some of my communication-based favorites:

Communication and Cleanliness, Part 1

The old adage of whistle while you work is actually a great way to take on the new level of cleanliness needed in our environment. Clean together as a family while whistling a favorite tune, or try a game of “guess the song” while wiping down doorknobs, counters, tabletops, and toys. The work will whistle by in short order!

Communication and Cleanliness, Part 2

If you have little ones who don’t enjoy washing up, sing a catchy tune together for the recommended 20-seconds of hand washing…or better yet, create your personalized family hand-washing song! This is a good idea for any of us who might be tempted to rush through necessary wash-ups, to ensure that we also abide the 20-second rule.

Communication and Care

We can allow more time to communicate how much we care for one another. Take a few moments in the morning to tell your loved ones how much you look forward to spending the day with them. Share your gratitude for each family member through concrete examples around the dinner table. Talk about actions we can take to show care for each other. This time together in the days ahead may even be an opportunity for children to learn more about the specific care supports needed within the family, and practice providing these care activities.

Communication and Cheeriness

With some of our free time, we can spread cheer to others through notes, cards, artwork, texts, phone, and Facetime communication. Write secret notes for family members to discover around your home. Hold a card writing session to mail cheery updates to others. Create drawings and other artwork to send to our hard working public servants along with a note of thanks — it goes a long way in cheering up their day. Text fun photos and jokes to schoolmates as a way to make them smile. Make group phone or Facetime calls to check-in and share cheerful updates, especially to the older folks we know.

Communication and Creation

Being cooped up all day calls out the need to communicate while out in creation! One can have a quiet commune with nature as a form of self-care. Step outside on your own every couple of hours to breath in, stretch, and hold a supportive self-talk. Take a simple “walk and talk” time each day with your family (and dog!) using mindfulness techniques to enjoy bits of nature. Grab a towel or blanket for a personal or group meditation session in the yard. Have a balcony, patio, or park picnic while waving at people you see. Cast your eyes to the cosmos in the evening and send up a prayer.

Communication and Cuddles

We are a touching society — we shake hands, hug, give a peck on the cheek or a pat on the back, and high five or fist pump with multiple folks each day. Now with the six feet social distance rule, touching is greatly diminished. However, if it is safe and possible, still find ways to show this needed affection to immediate family, especially our children. Have fun with a gentle “foot fight” by putting feet together while laying down and pushing back and forth. Sit back-to-back while listening to an audio book. Continue to show affection, even if you must glove up first, by tousling your children’s hair and giving them a gentle massage. Right before baths or showers, give more meaningful moments of cuddles if you can.

Communication and Cookies!

Finally, communication while cooking…it’s a terrific way to chat about the coming hours while fixing breakfast together, or to make plans for the upcoming days while preparing dinner. Relationship building can be had through connecting in joy while whipping up a batch of cookies or some other special family treat — this is a most delightful way to communicate while “COVID-19 cocooning” together!


Now my final “C” — find ways to Celebrate in some way, every day — from a small moment of victory, for a certain work/school/life accomplishment, to a significant occasion. Toast the event, give three cheers, hold a happy dance! Show your family and friends that we can find ways of celebratory conquests over the crisis, even if it is just for a few minutes of the day.

With warm regards for good health and safely — may we all know a strengthening of family and friendship through communication during these unprecedented times.

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Author: Linda Starnes • Date: 3/30/2020

About the Author

Linda Hampton Starnes (aka “Emily and Mac’s Mom”) has spent her life actively involved in the disability community — as a special educator, parent, speaker, and advocate. After teaching, then working at the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education, she became the mother of two children with varying abilities. Due to their significant health care needs, she managed 24-hour home nursing care, worked with physicians and therapists in fifteen medical specialties, and has overseen approximately 40 hospitalizations, surgeries, or procedures under anesthesia for her children. Linda has served on many local, state, and national boards of disability and healthcare organizations and educational institutions, and presents at conferences across the country.

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