Lyndsey Witte of Hastings, Nebraska, has a different kind of Sixpence story to share.
Lyndsey began working as a Sixpence home visitor in January 2020. For all of us, the world was then drastically different from now. For those of you fortunate enough to have kept your job through the pandemic, you’ve probably still had to swivel, pivot, adjust, and adapt to your new work environment.
For Lyndsey, as a Sixpence home visitor, this adaptation was important. Home visitors are a vital part of Sixpence. As one of Nebraska Children and Families Foundation’s early childhood initiatives, Sixpence aims to support children from prenatal until age three so that they can thrive during a pivotal time in their lives.
When it comes to early childhood development, home visitors are essential. These trained early childhood experts like Lyndsey form close, supportive relationships with parents, detect any potential developmental roadblocks and ensure children are on the path to kindergarten readiness.
Now, let’s go back to Lyndsey. As she began her new job as a home visitor, she started the worthy, gradual work of bonding with parents. In March 2020, when the unwelcome visitor also known as COVID-19 swept through the nation, Nebraska closed up shop – and homes, for that matter.
To complicate matters just as much, some of us, like Lyndsey, even began new jobs at the dawn of the pandemic. From there, we’ve had to grow accustomed to onboarding and training ourselves and others in innovative ways.
When Lyndsey learned that she couldn’t perform her home visits face-to-face, she had to think fast. With no way for Lyndsey to meet in person with families, she needed to figure out another way to grow these precious relationships. Initially, she felt a wave of disappointment, as she had worked to create trust with her families during the most imperative years of their children’s lives.
Lyndsey said, “I had just really started bonding with all of our families when COVID-19 started in March. I was unable to do home visits, and I knew I had to find a way that I could still connect with our families and support them and their needs!”
With that, Lyndsey began brainstorming. She tried to think of ways in which she could remain in touch with her families, build trust, and provide developmentally appropriate activities for them to do with their children.
Pretty soon, Lyndsey had a light bulb moment. She began to leverage the powers of social media, and with that, she began a Facebook page for all her families.
The first rule, however, to publishing compelling content is to know your audience and the kinds of posts they would enjoy.
Lyndsey demonstrated this keen knowledge of her families and began to find different subject matter that they would engage in and find relevant.
“I posted activities, recipes, developmental activities, and stories. I didn’t stop there!” said Lyndsey.
From there, Lyndsey decided to bring the comforts of home visits directly TO the families, even though she couldn’t be there in person. Lyndsey brought the power of learning at home with activity care packages for her families!
“I know how important our program is to these families, and so each month I made each family an individualized bag,” said Lyndsey.
Lyndsey’s gift bags, however, went above and beyond just sending her parents these developmentally stimulating activities to do with their children.
“Inside the bag, they had developmentally appropriate activities, books, recipes, and already purchased food-to-go, along with the recipe. These were fun, simple recipes that they could make with the help of the children,” said Lyndsey.
Lyndsey said that she not only put creativity into her efforts but her empathy and observation as well. Bear in mind, in March 2020, the pandemic reached its early peak. With Nebraska completely shut down, rather than running into a wall, Lyndsey decided to flow around the many obstacles.
“Our parks were closed, the swimming pool was closed, [child]cares were closed. The activities that I was able to provide [families] gave the parents a sense of direction and things to do with their children, so they did not feel so isolated,” she said.
Lyndsey said that providing empowerment for the parents, not only their children, was one of the most important aspects of these activities.
“[Parents] were empowered to make the most of the situation, and having the resources and guidance provided them a peace of mind that they were not alone,” said Lyndsey.
From there, Lyndsey was delighted to see that her wish came true. Through this creative strategy, parents and their children felt engaged and worked towards developmental readiness. Best of all, Lyndsey was able to continue to forge strong, healthy bonds with her parents!
“Many of the families sent me videos and pictures of them doing the activities with their children, and the appreciation they felt was heartwarming,” said Lyndsey.
“We made it through the pandemic together, maybe not side-by-side, but we still did it together!”