Category Archives: Children

COVID-19 Roundup: Property Tax Info; Ringing Bells; Harrowing Survival Story; Online Fitness And Yoga; Free Resumes; More

Several readers have wondered about Westport real estate and personal property tax abatement or deferral (they’re due today — April 1. No fooling). I asked 1st Selectman Jim Marpe. He says:

For several weeks, our town (and others) have been exploring deferment alternatives for property owners who can demonstrate genuine hardship. This is still a work in process.

Among other things, the governor must take executive order steps to allow a local community the option to modify property tax payment penalties and deadlines. I have been in direct touch with Governor Lamont on this issue. In the meantime the April 1 quarterly tax payment date still remains, but as always, allows 30 days (until May 1) to pay without penalty.

I have not heard if utility companies plan to offer any special dispensation for hardship cases. Our Human Services Department regularly works with residents on utility payment plans if true need can be demonstrated.

In related news, Governor Lamont announced yesterday a 90-day grace period on mortgage payments, and a 60-day delay on foreclosures. Homeowners should contact their banks and/or mortgage companies for details.


Across the country, communities are coming together to ring bells in support of medical personnel and other frontline workers.

From 5:00 to 5:02 p.m. tonight, Westport families are asked to “joyously sound a bell, chime, bang pans, etc. as a reminder that while we may be physically separated, we remain united. Let’s make this a gesture of gratitude to all the people helping us overcome this present situation: the police department, fire department, first responders, town officials, teachers and healthcare workers, including the many Westport parents who leave their families to care for those in need at hospitals and medical offices.”

Greens Farms and Assumption Churches — and perhaps others — will join in. Ring them bells! (Hat tips: Jaclyn Lindsey-Noble and Staples High School PTA)

In addition, reader Mary Beth Stirling urges Westporters to fly the American flag. That — and donations to any organization that helps those in need — are both a show of support, and a way to teach children that whatever they can do (including staying home to protect lives) is a patriotic act.

Green’s Farms Congregational Church has a great bell to ring.


“06880” readers know Heather Bauer for her tips on eating healthy in restaurants.

Now the rest of America knows her as a COVID-19 survivor. The 42-year-old nutritionist/mother of 3/ runner of 15 marathons was in great health — until she attended a party, and got infected.

Two days ago — just a week after leaving Yale New Haven Hospital, where she spent 9 harrowing days — Heather told her story on CNN.

It’s a scary tale of fever, migraine headaches, a full body rash, even possible meningitis. It’s also a tale of great care, by a wonderful medical staff. Click below to watch. (Hat tip: Ben Sturner)


Patty Kondub’s great water aerobics classes have been beached by the coronavirus. So have dozens of other Westport Weston Family YMCA offerings, in strength training, yoga — you name it.

But members can still get exercise — on land, at home. There are offerings for all ages, in every imaginable category. Click here for info.

PS: Yesterday, I (coincidentally) got a call from the Y. They were just checking in on all members — seeing how we are, and what we need.

I really need to swim. But failing that, I’d like to say this: THANKS, Y! What a nice, friendly, community touch!

A motivational message from Patty Kondub.


Speaking of exercise, Kaia Yoga’s classes are now all online. Many are inexpensive. There are also free kids’ classes and meditations — great for parents looking for productive activities.

Kaia Yoga — which has long provided classes for Bridgeport school children –has been hit hard by the coronavirus. They employ over 70 teachers.

Click here for a list of classes.


Speaking (again) of exercise, does anyone have an unused stationary bike they’re willing to sell? Asking for (ahem) a friend.


Every Westporter has a talent. Many are figuring out how to use their expertise to help others.

As a career coach, Jaki Suter helps clients write or refresh resumes. With so many people suddenly facing job losses, she’s doing her part: offering a “free resume refresh” to 30 Westport and Weston residents.

She’ll work with you to highlight skills and accomplishments; include new positions and details, and eliminate irrelevant details.

All you need is an existing resume no more than 5 years old. You’ll work by phone. Jaki will produce an updated resume, including a round of revisions and a final document.

To be one of the first 30 local residents, email jaki@sutergroup.com (subject line: “Free Resume Refresh”).


Jennifer Hrbek reports that she and Westport psychiatrist Dr. Mohamed Elsamra are helping raise $50,000 to buy 4 ventilators, to be donated to local hospitals. Click here to contribute.


Public Works director Peter Ratkiewich notes that transfer station personnel cannot assist with bulky waste. Do not bring those items to the station.

In addition, with the increase in cardboard due to online ordering, all boxes should be flattened, stacked and tied.

Tissues and gloves are being placed in recycling bins. They are not recyclable, and must be placed in the regular trash bin.

Due to the increased amount of glass containers, recycling bins are too heavy for workers to lift. For the time being, residents should separate glass into a smaller container, or put all recycling in smaller containers so workers can lift them.

Transfer station


Greens Farms Academy head of school Bob Whelan has gained fame — and respect — for his great snow day videos.

It’s a little tougher to pull off a clever coronavirus video. But the popular, people-first educator did.

This morning he channeled Fred Rogers, for the school’s youngest learners. Bob —  whose career before education was fronting the band Angry Salad — sang for his students.

He reminded them he (and the school) were still there for them. Then, in true Mr. Rogers fashion he asked them to keep him apprised of big events, like birthdays and lost teeth.

You don’t have to be a kid — or go to GFA — to love this one.


Miriam Young writes, “As one of many COVID positive people in Westport, I hope you can tell other positive readers about efforts to collect plasma from recovered patients.”

She sent a link to a story on how plasma might help people still fighting off infection (or, preemptively, those at high risk of infection).


When Westporter John Rizzi read that a TV remote can be 20 times dirtier than your toilet, he got worried. You can’t clean it well, without taking it all apart.

But he devised a solution: cover it in plastic wrap. It takes 2 seconds; it protects the device — and you can replace the wrap over and over again.


And finally, you don’t have to be a Kopite to love this song (and video!):

COVID-19 Roundup: Small Businesses And Loans; Face Masks; Realtors; $1200 Checks; Good Deeds; Podcasts; More

The Staples High School Gridiron Club has a great idea.

They emailed all members, reminding them of the many local businesses that supported them over the years with donations to fundraisers, ads in program books and (much) more.

Now is the time to pay it back. “Please take every opportunity to support our sponsors by purchasing their goods and services whenever and wherever possible,” they say. They included a list of dozens of sponsors, just as a reminder.

Think how many Westport organizations have been helped by local merchants. If you know of someone who donated to your cause in the past — well, what are you waiting for?

ASF often contributes to local fundraisers. You can shop online to help them — and many other merchants — now.


Jennifer Hrbek reports that Yale New Haven Health desperately needs hand sewn masks.

Click here for a pocket pattern. Donations can be mailed to Yale New Haven Health (Attn.: PPE Donations), 600 Derby Ave., West Haven, CT 06516. They can also be dropped off there Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

You can donate sewn masks that do not follow the pocket pattern too. YNHHS will pass them on to homeless shelters.

Jennifer and her friend, Bedford Middle School teacher Caroline Davis, have been making masks regularly. “They’re desperately needed. And working on them with kids is a great way to teach life skills,” Jennifer says.

Jennifer Hrbek, with sewing machine and mask.


Connecticut’s 0% interest loan program for small businesses and non-profits with fewer than 100 employees is great.

Unless you’re on the list of prohibited applicants.

You’re ineligible if you are “involved in real estate, multi-level marketing, adult entertainment, cannabis or firearms.” You also cannot be a state elected public official or state employee.

I understand the possible conflicts of interest around state officials and employees. But it seems to me the other groups listed have just as many small business worries as any restaurant, market, gift shop or toy store.

And realtors? I can’t imagine there were any open houses last weekend — or will be, over the next few weeks.


Amy Messing writes: “My husband and I plan to donate whatever we get from the government to help during the crisis. Other people may be moved to do the same.

“Do any local fundraising efforts distribute money to restaurant workers, small businesses and others in need? Also, are there any needs for volunteer help that you can identify?”

There are many. This morning, Westporter Stephanie Webster’s great CTBites.com featured a list of many restaurant funds. Click here to see (and note that locally it includes both Match Burger Lobster and Artisan).

I told Amy that I’d crowd-source others. Please click “Comments” below, and let us all know your favorite fundraisers and volunteer opportunities.


One positive side effect of the coronavirus: crime is way down.

I’m on the email list for regular updates from the Westport Police. Usually, the list of arrests for things like distracted driving and speeding is 6 or 8 pages long.

This morning there was just 1  (for “failure to obey control signal.”)

Often too there are 4 to 6 “custodial arrests” (aka lockups), for crimes like domestic violence, larceny and sexual assault.

For the last week, there have been none.

Nice to know that even criminals are self-isolating.


This weekend Elise, Penelope and Daphne Eisenberger painted hearts and positive messages on rocks they, their dad Nico and mother Robin Bates collected at Burying Hill Beach. 

Yesterday they put them (in places no one would need to touch) by the entrances to Westport EMS, the police station, Greens Farms fire station and post office, their pediatrician’s office and a few other spots. They saw similar signs around town.

“It won’t stop anyone from getting sick, or make anyone better who is,” Nico says. “But we hope it’s helpful in some small way to those who work hard to keep us all safe.”

Coincidentally, just a few minutes before I published this piece, I got an email from EMS deputy director Marc Hartog. He writes about those stones:

“We don’t know who placed them there or when, but everyone here is incredibly moved that someone, or some group, thought about us and wanted to show their support.

“This is another example of everyday people doing whatever they can during this crisis, even just to boost the morale of our personnel on the front lines. We wish we could thank them, let them know that this gesture is so appreciated. Maybe if you post this, even though we can’t do it in person, they will know.”

Done. And PS: Now you know!

Elise, Penelopoe and Daphne Eisenberger.


Lauren Braun Costello is making lemonade — more accurately perhaps, lemon tarts or meringue pie — during this time of lemons.

Every day during the pandemic, she’s on Instagram Live with tips and tricks to stretch pantries, and help us feed our families.

Lauren is a classically trained chef, with an impressive CV. Check out itslaurenofcourse.com on Instagram.


Yesterday’s rain did not stop Doris Ghitelman.

The Westporter had to go shopping. So she called 4 high-risk neighbors and friends, and asked what they needed.

“It makes me happy to the core to help,” she says. “There’s always a silver lining 😊🧡”

PS: Nice gloves!


Across the world, John Karrel reports, people are putting teddy bears in all kinds of places: windows. Front porches. Roofs.

The idea is for parents to walk around with their kids, counting as many as they find. It’s a scavenger hunt anyone can help with.

John’s already spotted a couple of teddy bears in Greens Farms. Time to add yours! (And if you don’t have one, plenty of toy stores in Westport can help.)


Every week for decades, the Y’s Men meet to hear intriguing speakers.

COVID-19 has halted that tradition. But the Y’s Men are resourceful and resilient.

They’ve developed a podcast series — and they’re sharing them with the world.

Recent guests included internist Dr. Robert Altbaum and epidemiologist Dr. Pietro Marghello, plus that guy who writes the “06880” blog.

Today John Brandt interviews the CEO of a major wholesale distributor to national supermarkets. He’ll talk about the supply chain.

Click here for all the Y’s Men podcasts.


A former Westporter — now a college professor — is asking her students to interview (by phone or video) someone over the age of 70, with pre-selected questions.

Westporters and non-Westporters who are chatty and game should send names, brief bios and contact info to kochel491@gmail.com by 4 p.m. Wednesday.

“At a time when people are lonely and the lessons I’d originally planned seem increasingly irrelevant, I hope this project will be meaningful to both interviewers and interviewees,” she says.


And finally, here’s a gift from Berklee College of Music. It’s been home to a number of Westporters. They’ve chosen well.

COVID-19 Roundup: Farmers’ Market Supports Vendors; Aid For Small Businesses; Videos, Art, And More

The Westport Farmers’ Market is between seasons. But they never stop helping their shoppers — or their farmers.

At a time when healthy, fresh food is especially important; when supermarket shopping carries risks, and purveyors — like all of us — have been rocked by COVID-19, the Farmers’ Market has a plan.

Just click here. Scroll down; click on a logo to select a vendor (there are 8: Calf & Clover Creamery, Seacoast Mushrooms, Wave Hill Breads, Farmers & Cooks, Two Guys from Woodbridge, Paul’s Custom Pet Food, Herbacious Catering and Ox Hollow Farm).

Place your order. Pay directly on their site, by Wednesday noon.  You’ll receive info about your scheduled pickup time by 8 a.m. Thursday. (Delivery is available too — but only in Westport.)

If you’re picking up, at the appropriate time head to the Winter Farmers’ Market site: Gilbertie’s Herb Gardens, 7 Sylvan Lane South. Your order will be bagged and waiting outside. Only the vendor and you will touch your bag.

Bring your own totes, if you’ve ordered several bags. “Bring your patience too,” the Farmers’ Market says. “We will figure this out together.”

Seems like the Farmers’ Market has already figured out most of it. Now all we have to do is order — and thank them, and their awesome farming partners.


Alert reader Marshall Kiev passes along a great summary of the relevant small business relief portion of the recently enacted CARES Act.

“This relief package should be an important  lifeline to many small businesses in Westport – coffee shops, butchers, hair salons, etc.,” he says. “Let’s get the word out to everyone. Many of these businesses are shut down, and owners may not be aware of the available funding.”

Click here to view — then forward far and wide!

Many shuttered Westport businesses can benefit from recent legislation. (Photo/Katherine Bruan)


I’ve written before about Cup of Sugar: the fantastic local group providing deliveries of food, medication and anything else for people in need. (Just click here, then click “Request a Delivery.”)

Nick Ribolla was ready to graduate this spring, from Columbia University. He’s finishing online, but wants to help his home town. He signed up with Cup of Sugar. Still, he is eager to do even more.

He has a lot to offer. He’s sharp, multi-talented, funny and fun. (He’s also got plenty of experience with kids, as a longtime camp counselor).

Nick can help youngsters via Zoom with humanities (“especially English and creative writing”), and Spanish. He’ll also help them manage their workloads. “Whatever I can do, I’ll do,” he says simply.

Call or text: 203-451-9453. And of course, say “gracias.”

Nick Ribolla


The Westport Police Department has put together some great videos. A variety of Westporters (see how many you know!) offer messages — “stay strong!” “keep your distance!” “keep buying local!” — via their Facebook page.

Just search on FB for “Westport Police Department.” Or click here for the latest (with a cameo by yours truly); click here for another, and click here for the first.


Once again, Dr. Scott Gottlieb appeared on a Sunday morning news show, direct from his Westport yard.

This morning, the former FDA commissioner told “Face the Nation” that coronavirus restrictions should remain in place ahead of a “difficult April,” and that the US might have “millions” of cases over the next few months.

Click here for the interview.


Coleytown Elementary School art teacher Deb Goldenberg is working with her colleagues around town to help every school share positive messages — through art, of course.

Students are drawing or making designs, then adding brief ideas like “Spread kindness and love.” They’re encouraged to experiment with patterns and fonts. Messages will be included with the school’s Morning News.


In today’s Persona interview, Jimmy Izzo discusses why shopping local is more important than ever. Click here for a clip, then download the app for the full Q&A.

Jimmy Izzo


And finally, if you’re missing a loved one — well, in a pandemic, just follow doctor’s orders.

PS: Sure, get up and dance. No one’s watching!

COVID-19 Roundup: Arlen Road Neighbors; Old Mill Parking Lot Closed; “Distance Learning” Help For Parents; Driving School Open; More

Jack Washburn turns 90 years old today. Family had planned to come from around the country to celebrate.

Now of course, they can’t. That’s just one of countless small side effects of the coronavirus.

But Jack’s milestone will not go unnoticed. Just before noon, he and his wife got a joyful surprise.

His Arlen Road neighbors — adults and kids — gathered on the front lawn. Spaced appropriately apart, they sang “Happy Birthday.”

The provided lunch and cake (and wine).

Then they strung a line on the porch, where they hung birthday cards they’d all made. That way he could look at them, without touching.

Speaking of touching: This is Westport at its best!

Washburn 90th


Many Westporters have offered to donate items during the coronavirus crisis.

Town officials say, “The unique circumstances and complications due to potential virus transmission, including the time needed to quarantine donations and equipment, require detailed coordination. Items that do not assist with the response and recovery cannot be accepted.”

Westport is accepting the following response and recovery donations at your curb by appointment, between 9 a.m. and 12 noon only:

  • Plastic face shields and goggles
  • Packaged medical masks
  • Packaged N-95 masks
  • Packaged medical head coverings
  • Packaged medical gowns
  • Tyvek suits
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Packaged Nitrile or nylon disposable gloves

Items that are not pre-packaged cannot be accepted.

Click here to fill out a brief form. You will be contacted to set up a time for curbside pickup.

And, officials emphasize: Do not drop off donations at town buildings!


Old Mill Beach has joined the list of parking lots closed to visitors. Compo Beach and Burying Hill had previously been closed.

Sherwood Island State Park remains open. So do the 44 trailed preserves operated by Aspetuck Land Trust.

(Photo/Molly Alger)


Distance learning has begun. Students are adapting well. Parents — well…

Successful Study Skills for Students — a local organization — is offering a 30-minute interactive seminar: “8 Ways to Keep Your Student Focused, On Track and On Task in the New E-learning Environment.”

Delivered via Zoom, it helps parents learn how to establish and maintain accountability, and help minimize distractions and reduce stress.

Sessions are Tuesday, March 31 and Thursday, April 2 (7 p.m.) and Wednesday, April 1 (10 a.m.).

It’s free, but registration is required. Each seminar is limited to 25 people. Click here to enroll. For more information, call 203-307-5455 or email info@S4StudySkills.com.


Inspired by Wednesday’s “06880 Pic of the Day” showing a heart in a mailbox with the message “Smile!”, the Theisinger family decided to do something similar for the people who help them.

Youngsters Grant and Blair put on gloves, and packed up treat bags. They printed out messages of thanks, and left them for their mail carrier, UPS deliverer and refuse collector.

“Just a small token to show our gratitude!” says their mom, Kristy. “We 💜 Westport!”


When Governor Lamont ordered many businesses shut, driving schools were among those hit.

Now, however, the Department of Motor Vehicles has allowed them to offer something previously prohibited: online classes. (Schools must meet certain guidelines for testing and attendance tracking.)

Westport’s Fresh Green Light begins soon. The schedule will closely mirror the existing one of after-school hours and weekends.

Classes are open to all current students, and new enrollments (16 and older). Click here for details.


So how did Jim and Nancy Eckl celebrate their 37th wedding anniversary?

They donned masks and gloves, and served their loyal, beloved customers at Gold’s.


Finally, today’s Song of the Day comes via the great Suzanne Sherman Propp, and her Sing Daily! project that brightens hundreds of Westporters’ days:

 

Cynthia Gibb’s Triple Threat For Aspiring Actors, Writers, Dancers

As Westport teens and tweens settle down to life in a pandemic, they’re learning how to learn online.

Academics and extracurriculars are all done virtually now. But it’s one thing to learn math or history that way, or do your judo or piano lessons.

What about all those theater kids? When Mickey Rooney said “let’s put on a show!” he wasn’t talking to himself.

Cynthia Gibb rides to the rescue.

The 1981 Staples High School graduate sure has the credentials. She’s starred in “Search for Tomorrow” and “Fame”; played Karen Carpenter in her biopic; starred with Shirley Jones, Dick Van Dyke, Rob Lowe, Patrick Swayze and Burt Reynolds, and been on “Law and Order/SVU” and “Criminal Minds” too.

Cynthia Gibb earned a Golden Globe nomination for her portrayal of Gypsy Rose Lee in “Gypsy,” with Bette Midler.

Cynthia worked with Oliver Stone, Stephen Sondheim, Arthur Laurents and Jerome Robbins. Her credits include 13 features, 3 network series, 24 TV movies, countless TV pilots, commercials, voiceovers and print work.

A decade ago she returned to Westport, and opened Triple Threat Academy. It’s nurtured and inspired hundreds of young and adult actors, singers and dancers. Many have gone on to schools like Tisch and Carnegie Mellon, and careers on Broadway and in Hollywood.

Cynthia Gibb, at the “Fame” reunion in Italy.

When the coronavirus pandemic turned “Contagion” into reality, acting teacher Nick Sadler (“True Grit,” “Scent of a Woman”) brainstormed how to keep youngsters — so many of whose shows were canceled just days before opening night — engaged. It had to be more than a watching-and-waiting scene study class.

Cynthia had an idea: a pandemic monologue play.

Students could journal about their experiences during this crazy time, and craft a monologue. At the end of 6 weeks, it will be performed via Zoom. With Triple Threat’s help, actors might take the resulting play to a real stage or screen — even on tour — once people can congregate again.

Westport native Jamie Mann (right) and Josie Todd (middle), last summer in “Because of Winn Dixie” at the Goodspeed Opera House. The pair will perform together again — this time virtually — in Triple Threat Academy’s upcoming online plays. 
(Photo/Diane Sobolewski)

Cynthia’s “Monologue and Play Development Class” meets for 6 weeks, starting next week (high schoolers on Wednesdays, middle schoolers on Tuesdays, from 5 to 6 p.m.).

Monologues will be good, bad, fearful funny. (Remember, “A Chorus Line” started out as monologues too.) Enrollment already includes teenagers with extensive — even professional — experience.

“Art always reflects what is going on in life,” Cynthia says. “Just think about ‘Rent’ and the AIDS crisis. We now have an opportunity to find the light in dark times, the humanity behind the grim news, and the positivity to push forward — all through the powers of creativity, collaboration and storytelling.”

Meanwhile, Nick has organized a hybrid of traditional radio theater and today’s podcasts. (Remember when Americans huddled around the radio, listening to plays? Hey — we’re back huddling together.)

Nick Sadler (center) with Phillip Seymour Hoffman in “Scent of a Woman,” starring Al Pacino. Sadler landed this supporting role shortly after graduating from Juilliard.

His “Virtual Play Series” will teach students how to stage a fast-paced play (or two). Each week the cast will meet via Zoom to read, rehearse and ultimately “release” the play to an online audience.

Students will take on multiple roles, challenging them to invent a variety of characters. It’s a collaborative effort — just like all great theater. (An adult version is in the works too.)

It runs for 7 Sundays, from 3 to 4 p.m. for high schoolers, and 5 to 6 p.m. for middle schoolers. The first session is this Sunday (March 29).

Meanwhile, the third part of Triple Threat — dance — heads online too. Kim Porio offers a class this Sunday (10:45 to 11:45 a.m.) for young actors and singers. It’s “Bring a Friend Day,” so even those not enrolled can try it out.

It all should be quite a show.

(For more information about Triple Threat Academy’s offerings, including registration, click here, email TripleThreatAcademyCT@gmail.com, search on Facebook, or follow @TripleThreatAcademy on Instagram.)

Talking To Kids About Traumatic Events: Part 2

Last week, Westport psychologist Dr. Joshua Eudowe offered insights into why parents must judiciously ground their children in age- appropriate, trustworthy facts in order to prevent irrational fears from developing.

Yet besides having discussions with children, what else can be done to lower their anxiety?

In Part 2, Dr. Eudowe says:

  • Explain what the Center for Disease Control does, and why they direct us to do what we do. Talk to children of all ages about the importance of complying with the CDC’s recommendations, and why it’s important to listen to them. Explain the global effort to contain this, including positive facts about treatment initiatives, containment, etc.

 

  • Consider giving children tasks to oversee during this time. For example, assign a child the job of ensuring soap is available near all sinks. Someone may be assigned to organize food or cleaning supplies. Even tasks that aren’t needed can be helpful, like creating a list of movies to watch or researching something online. Giving children responsibilities makes them feel more in control, connected to those who provide safety and security, and involved in the family’s collective effort.

 

Caring for pets is a great task.

 

  • Don’t be surprised if children aren’t taking this seriously. They don’t have the life experience adults have, or possess the bandwidth for intellectual reasoning that adults do. They can’t pull from prior experiences, nor compare to even slightly similar situations in life to know they’re safe. It’s not their fault they lack the experiences and perspectives that adults have. Most of us see our children as being older than their chronological age. Therefore we expect them to comprehend situations that are nearly impossible. Remember how old they actually are. I often tell parents, “She/he is only 12 years old. Developmentally, their capacity for intellectual processing is limited – despite how mature they seem.” Even though a child may appear sophisticated enough to comprehend the gravity of situations, developmentally they simply can’t decipher what’s needed to avoid irrational thinking.

 

  • While common for parents to talk to their children as a family, be mindful that conversations with different age groups can sometimes be inappropriate. Don’t sit down with your middle schooler alongside your high schooler to discuss facts or expectations. Questions and fears may arise during conversations that could prove troublesome to younger members of the family. Also, discuss with older siblings the importance of not saying things to instill fear in younger ones. It’s a point that must be stressed with consequences. This is a time for families to work together.

 

  • Remain consistent for your children. Consistency, particularly now, is critical. An inconsistent parent drives a child towards a state of uncertainty. An example most of us can relate to is screen time.  Parents may bend rules and say, “Okay, but just this time” to avoid a frustrating confrontation. This leads to children remaining in the “unknown” – not being sure whether consequences will be enforced or ignored. I tell parents, “when the door opens, children need to know who’s walking in. When they don’t, anxiety will develop.”  While parents are certainly allowed to have bad days, remain as consistent as possible.

Can I get away with this today?

  • Divorced parents must work hard to communicate to ensure consistency during transitions and visitation. Despite the difficulties that arise in these situations, children must come first. Creating environments that promote similar expectations during traumatic times is critical to avoiding excess anxiety. Transitioning to the other parent’s home is already difficult, and often a process filled with anxiety. An inconsistent parent who verbally or behaviorally devalues the rules of the other home will intensify irrational thoughts, and can make children feel responsible for their own well-being – something to avoid at all costs. Remember that children continue to see both parents as their “parents,” although you may not. Neither parent should ever speak negatively about the other, or behave in a way that invalidates the other. Doing so will cause children to worry for the other parent’s safety, resulting in increased difficulty in transitioning, and likely significant behavioral problems such as anger, disobedience, avoidance, and an unwillingness to continue to transition.

 

  • Take a break from the news. We all need to step away from television and online media from time to time. While it’s vital to stay informed, adults and children can easily become overwhelmed and transition into irrational thinking. When this occurs it’s time to play a game, watch a movie, do something fun, and ground ourselves in positive thinking.

 

As parents, we constantly model for our children. Remember: The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Remain calm. Carefully and attentively listen to your children’s concerns. Don’t be engaged in other activities while your child is sharing fears or asking questions. Don’t be on your phone while yelling at them to get off theirs. Listen to them. Validate their concerns by saying things such as, “I can see how scared you are, and I know it doesn’t feel good,” or “There are many things we don’t know right now, but we’re doing everything to be safe.”  Don’t invalidate their fears by saying things like, “You have nothing to worry about.” It’s not true, and they know it. You will become a less trusted source for information.

Kids need us. Be there for them!

Symptoms to watch out for during any traumatic experience.

Avoidance. This is the number one challenge in treating trauma. People don’t want to discuss or even think about frightening events. Therefore, adults and children avoid discussions. In terms of communication, be careful (or ask a professional) if your gut tells you that your child is avoiding a conversation, rather than merely being uninterested. A parent’s intuition is usually correct; trust it. Either way, conversations should occur frequently.

Also:

  • Shock, denial, or disbelief
  • Confusion, difficulty concentrating
  • Anger, irritability, mood swings
  • Anxiety and fear
  • General and/or separation anxiety
  • Guilt, shame, self-blame
  • Withdrawing from others
  • Changes in appetite
  • Feeling sad or hopeless
  • Feeling disconnected
  • Insomnia or nightmares
  • Overly fatigued
  • Being startled easily
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Edginess and agitation
  • Aches and pains
  • Muscle tension

Dr. Joshua Eudowe

If your child exhibits several of these signs to a point where they interrupt normal functioning, seek professional help as soon as possible. Unlike some other mental health conditions, trauma can intensify quickly. Left untreated, it can worsen considerably. The COVID-19 pandemic will create enormous amounts of fear and anxiety, in all of us. Early intervention is the key to moving past this global pandemic. When the virus is eventually contained and treated, the wake of emotional dysregulation will grow exponentially. Now is the time for proactive measures.

With COVID-19 spreading at a rapid pace, many therapists are working remotely. While not ideal, even phone or video sessions can be invaluable in preventing symptoms from worsening. Please seek professional guidance; don’t wait until your child exhibits significant symptoms.

At least 5 young people in Fairfield County have been hospitalized because of suicidal thoughts related to anxiety during the coronavirus crisis. If you or someone you know is having a difficult time, reach out for help. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255. or click here for additional resources.)

Pics Of The Day #1069

These days, everyone and everything practices social distancing:

Grandparents … (Photo courtesy of Bob Weingarten)

… dogs at Grace Salmon Park … (Photo/Susie Kowalsky)

… UPS drivers at the Imperial Avenue lot …

… and the gulls at Compo Beach (Photo/Tracy Porosoff)

…. even daffodils on Rocky Ridge Road (Photo/MIke Hibbard)

Meanwhile, Carter Klein shelters in place with his buddy Luke (Photo/Nicole Klein)

 

Introducing “0*6*Art*Art*0”

Westport really is an arts community.

Yesterday I tossed out an idea: In these perilous times, let’s share art. I promised to post some of what I got every Saturday.

I wrote:

It doesn’t matter how old (or young) you are. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never picked up a brush, crayon or camera in your life. You don’t have to be an experienced painter, sketcher or collagist. You can work together, or with your family or anyone else you’re self-isolating with

All you need is an idea and a way to express it. Serenity, love, calm, separation, friends, solitude, fear, hope — whatever you’re thinking or feeling, get to work!

Artwork flooded in. It was broad, beautiful and imaginative.

Uh oh. Much of it was also created before (remember those days?) the pandemic hit.

My idea was to get folks — amateurs and professional, of all ages — making art, of all types. I guess some people just skimmed the story.

I’d love to showcase all the art I got. Right now, I’m limiting it to work that was specifically created during this crisis, or that shows powerfully some of the effects these days are having on us.

Here’s the first batch. Enjoy this virtual gallery.

Keep the submissions coming (based on the criteria above). And if yours is not posted today, be patient. There will be more next Saturday, and every week after until there’s no more art. As if.

PS: Thanks, Stacie Curran, for the great suggestion to call this new feature “0*6*Art*Art*0”!

Haiku, by Westport poet laureate Diane Lowman

“Find Your Beach” (Max Szostak, 17 years old)

Robbie Sumberg

Chalk art by Kassia Stedman, 8, and Avery Stedman, 6

A bra makes an impromptu face mask (Amy Schneider)

Alex Drexler couldn’t sleep. He took his dog on a 5-mile walk. The sunrise helped.

The new Merritt Parkway rush hour (Paul Delano)

Lonely boy (Finley LaPick)

Brenda Giegerich

“Heads Above Water” (Heidi Palmer)

Long Lots Elementary School student Ben Kuster spent the week decorating t-shirts

Mara Barth

COVID-19 Roundup: Human Services News; CT FAQs; What’s Open; Resource Pages Galore; Interesting Offers; Inspiring Stories And More

The Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce has added a new page: Markets. It includes not just supermarkets, but food sellers like Balducci’s, Double L, Organic Market and Stiles, with hours of operation (including senior shopping) and phone numbers. Click here to see.

It’s an invaluable service — as is their other page featuring restaurants that offer takeout and delivery. Click here to see.


Human Services Department director Elaine Daignault says:

“The health and safety of our residents is our top priority. The Department of Human Services stands ready to help. Many seniors and other at-risk populations may need assistance in procuring supplies for extended self-isolation. DHS is investigating ways to provide safe and efficient help to at-risk homebound seniors and/or households.

“We encourage residents to call their neighbors and offer help, while taking care to follow CDC precautions by keeping a safe social distance. Remember that even if you are feeling well, you could still be a carrier of the virus.”

The Department has compiled a guide that provides up-to-date financial and social services information for the most vulnerable and at-risk members of the Westport community. Click here to see.

Residents should call Human Services at 203-341-1050 or email humansrv@westportct.gov if they or a neighbor have an emergency need of food or medications, or need other help.

For general town information on the coronavirus, click here.


WestportMoms.com constantly updates their list of things to do with kids (Quarantine Scavenger Hunt, anyone?), along with resources and even a bit of humor. They’re on Facebook and Instagram too, and via email newsletter.


The State of Connecticut has a superb, 34-page document answering Frequently Asked Questions about the coronavirus. It covers everything from testing and childcare to the DMV, unemployment and medical leave. Click here to download.


Alert and involved “06880” reader Gil Ghitelman reports that his wife Doris just came home with bunches of flowers from Trader Joe’s.

“I thought she blew the week’s budget,” he says. “But she told me they’re for some friends and neighbors.”

Gil was still thinking about the budget when Doris added that Jared — one of the Trader Joe’s guys — heard about her kindness. He told her the flowers were on the house.

“The budget’s intact. A bunch of people are happy. And a big hat tip to TJ’s!” Gil says.

 


Several readers report finding discarded latex gloves in supermarket and shopping center parking lots. Bring a bag — then dispose of them carefully! 


Connecticut restaurants are now allowed to sell alcohol with takeout and delivered meals. In addition, bars that deliver can sell beverages in sealed containers, just as liquor stores do.


Tonight (Friday, March 20, 7 p.m.), Senator Chris Murphy will host a telephone town hall. Click here to join in.


Besides the COVID-19 testing planned for Westport over the next 3 Tuesdays, there are other test options in Connecticut. Contact them for screening procedures:

• Yale New Haven Health system (833-275-9644)
• Hartford Health Care (833-621-0600)
• Stamford Health (203-276-4111)
• Connecticut Children’s Hospital (833-226-2362)
• DOCS Urgent Care https://docsmedicalgroup.com/telemedicine/


The Red Cross is in dire need of blood. Click here for donation centers, and to learn who is eligible to give during this pandemic.

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Staples High School Class of 1985 grad Mitch McManus is president of BMW of Bridgeport. They’ll drop a loaner off at your home or workplace, then take your car in for service. I am sure many other dealerships offer ways to avoid crowds too. Call yours for details.


CVS is no longer open 24/7. The new hours are 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. They do offer free delivery (1 to 2 days) of prescriptions and other “essential” items. Click here for details.


Connecticut’s Department of Motor Vehicles will not allow remote or distance driver’s ed classes. (Probably a good move, all things considered.)

So The Next Street — a private company — has pivoted. They’re offering students a 10-week “Intro to Entrepreneurship” remote course — for free. (It is open too to anyone interested in starting and running their own businenss).

The course meets via Zoom on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1 to 2 p.m. Click here for info.


The Federation for Jewish Philanthropy of Upper Fairfield County asks children to send pictures and letters, to be shared with seniors in nursing homes and assisted living centers. Click here for details.

 

Pic Of The Day #1067

(Photo/Janet Gomez Duffield)

Janet Gomez Duffield reports: “My children’s teachers at Christ & Holy Trinity Preschool have been creating amazing videos and reading stories, sharing ideas of things to do, etc.

“Yesterday, my son’s 3 class lesson was about planting seeds. The teachers delivered the seeds and dirt to our mailboxes/doors (adhering to social distancing). Here is a photo of my kids and dog, and their super-excited teacher delivering the items.

“They were so happy to see each other. We are very lucky and grateful to have teachers who care so much.”