We all know that the world we are emerging into will be different than the one we took shelter from.  Fist bumps, or even elbow bumps, will replace handshakes.  Glass shields protect us from everyday transactions, be it the post office or the farmer’s market.  We may never feel secure enough in our stock of hand sanitizer ever again.  Yet while “those that know” work endlessly to get us back to what used to be normal, no one really knows the forecast for the future.  This seems to be especially true for our children, particularly in regard to education, daycare services and worship services.  Certainly, we feel the need to know and understand the impact to our grown-up world before we can make decisions regarding those who depend upon us.

I’m sure many of us with young children might have felt a slight reprieve in the beginning of this pandemic, as we were given permission to attend services in our jammies with our coffee and children.  If the kids got too antsy, we could send them to their rooms rather than try to sweetly hiss reprimands under our breaths.  But we’re now eight weeks in and I know we are longing to see our church family (and pass those darling little suckers over to another loving adult!).  So, how is this going to go down?

Of course, no one knows for certain how this will all play out with information changing daily, if not hourly.  But it’s probably safe to say that many procedures we see put in place as part of Phase One will carry through to our childcare facilities, with even stricter precautionary measures than what we’re normally used to.  Fortunately, most churches these days have existing security measures to protect our children, and many of those procedures follow recommendations for unwanted viral predators as well.  Computerized check-ins and single flow circulation paths (one way in and one way out) have been typical practice for a while now.  However, we may now expect our children are met at the Children’s Wing entry with a thermometer and a “Thank you we got it from here”.

Once our little ones are safely in the protection of the kids’ area, what happens then?  We will likely follow the guidelines that are developed by the educational system.  Many ideas and speculation have been tossed out and it’s hard to know what will stick, but we are probably best to prepare our children for the same cautions that will be required in schools or the general public.  Less furniture, less surfaces to touch, and larger spaces for fewer bodies are all easily achieved practical implementations.  The success lies in the integration of these new procedures to become normal in the environment.  Consider visual cues as a means to socially distance in groups, such as carpeting with a pattern that repeats at six feet intervals.  This feels much more natural as part of the environment than carpet tiles overlaid on flooring and could even serve as a cue to indicate where to sit.  Having hand sanitizing stations placed throughout the room next to any shared materials will encourage the rote practice of hand-cleaning.

Ultimately, however, children are going to be children and our biggest challenge will be to continue to nourish their spirits despite the physical barriers imposed.  Children are blessed with resilience and most likely will be our teachers in integrating into a post-pandemic world.

Author: Heather Hopkins, ASID, NCIDQ, LEED AP