Mental Health in the Time of Corona Virus: Helping Children Cope Emotionally

From your Heart of Texas Region MHMR (For more posts in this series, click here: Mental Health in the Time of Corona Virus)

Children are being flooded with information about the Coronavirus (COVID-19) from a variety of sources.  This is a unique situation that may leave parents questioning what to say to their children and how to address the possible emotional fallout from this concerning and anxiety-producing time in our society.

Children need to have important, factual, and appropriate information. They are likely receiving information from peers, adults, social media, and news outlets. We know that not all of this information is accurate.  Parents should provide accurate information in an effort to reduce possible confusion, fear and anxiety and to provide reassurance.  Be careful not to provide too much information and keep it at a level that the child is able to understand.

Remain sensitive to your child’s mood, behavior, and any noticeable changes in regular patterns such as sleeping and eating.   Some children keep their thoughts and feelings to themselves, while others act out their emotions. If you notice changes in your child, encourage them to express their feelings so you can explain and provide support. This provides safety and security for your child in the midst of difficult feelings and emotions. 

Continue to have as much structure in the day as your time will allow. Life as your children know it has been disrupted probably more than any other time in their lives. They are not attending school, they may not be seeing friends, sporting events have been cancelled or postponed, and they may be staying home more. Structure can decrease the amount of anxiety a child may be feeling, and give them a sense of control.

Provide children with practices that decrease the chances of getting the virus. Inform your children of the Center for Disease Control’s recommendations on what safety steps can be taken to lessen the spread of the virus (e.g., washing hands frequently, using wipes to clean surfaces, not gathering in large groups, keeping distance from others, using proper means to cover mouth when coughing or sneezing). This will offer children a sense of control over the spread of the virus.

Be aware of your own responses to COVID-19. Children take signals from their parents. Try to be aware of how you are feeling and your own experiences around COVID-19, and how this can affect your child. Speak to a friend, spouse or other trusted person to talk about your concerns and anxieties.  Don’t wait to feel overwhelmed by your worries to speak to others.  Having ongoing discussion with others will help you with your own anxieties and in not feeling you are alone in your concerns.

MHMR Mental Health Hot line – 254-752-3451 or 1-866-752-3451 – 24 hours a day. For questions related to substance use challenges, call 254-297-8999. Call 911 for a life-threatening crisis. 

Support is available for those living with Alzheimer’s or other dementias and their caregivers

By Maggie Sanders

With the current COVID-19 Shelter-in-Place guidelines, we are all having to adjust to new ways of doing things. Working and learning at home, cooking instead of eating out and meeting digitally instead of face-to-face are just some of the ways we are coping.

For those living with Alzheimer’s or other dementias or their caregivers, the new guidelines add an extra layer of stress.  Already confused, our loved ones are now even more so. Unable to understand why they must stay home if they are used to going out. And they may have trouble remembering to wash their hands or to keep their distance. Those residing in facilities, most of which are on lockdown, do not know why their families are no longer visiting.

Caregivers previously benefitting from support groups or seeking information may not know where to turn.  Although these groups are not meeting in person, the Alzheimer’s Association provides support with call-in and virtual options.  For a list of virtual support groups, visit

Our local staff are working remotely and are available to help virtually as well. The toll-free 24/7 helpline (800) 272-3900 continues to provide information and connections to resources, and Links to online chats, resources and support groups can be found at Caregivers and persons living with Alzheimer’s or dementia can join message forums on a variety of subjects at  

Take care of yourselves and your loved ones. Be safe. We will get through this.

Maggie Sanders is a free-lance artist and writer. Now retired from McLennan Community College, sheo cares for her mother, Vivian Sanders, who is living with severe dementia. Maggie volunteers with the local Alzheimer’s Association chapter and is a member of the Walk to End Alzheimer’s committee.

Waco Working Together Website Gearing up to Share Vital Community Information

By Ferrell Foster and Emily Hunt-Hinojosa

Prosper Waco began using the phrase “Waco Working Together” before the tragedy of COVID-19 struck. The pandemic has shown just how important and possible it is for the people and organizations of Waco to work together. It has been great to see how the community has worked together to respond.

In light of the challenges, we are extending our phrase a little — Waco Working Together for a new normal. There is no going back; all aspects of the Greater Waco community are working together to create a new normal, and we think it can even be better than before.

By working together for the common good we do more than rebuild what was going well; we can bring new health and wellbeing to parts of our community that were struggling before the pandemic began.

To aid this collaboration, Prosper Waco has launched a new website — Check it out, but this is only the beginning.

In the next few weeks, with needed funding, we will move to phase two, which will utilize a web platform called RoundTable, from the Thriving Cities Group. On this platform, Prosper Waco and Thriving Cities Group are building a unique tool specifically designed for Waco. Roundtable supports an interactive map that connects stories with data for a more contextual understanding of our community. By leveraging a common data platform, we can develop a more holistic perspective of Greater Waco.

Key features of Roundtable are:

  1. Display of quantitative indicators across the Waco/McLennan County region searchable by various geographic levels (neighborhood, Zip codes, city, county, etc.). This feature enables everyone equal access to relevant data about our community (population demographics information, as well as data related to education, health, income, employment, and a variety of other topics) to enrich our understanding on issues, pipelines, and opportunities.
  2. A profile system whereby local organizations and groups can input and update their own information. This will enable quick and direct input of information in a changing environment.
  3. A map of the various assets and resources across our community that bring us together

Thriving Cities uses the phrase “human ecology” to speak of how a community works. Just as a biological ecology involves interacting of varied species, a human ecology refers to the interacting of the individuals and organizations in a community. Biological and human ecologies can promote thriving life or hinder it.

The goal of is to help us all see Waco as a human ecology that helps Greater Waco thrive. It will do this, in part, by building a store of information in one place previously unavailable in Waco. Prosper Waco will analyze the data and the information entered by the varied organizations to help all of us to understand our community better and to work more effectively together.

Thriving Cities Group likes to say that a Community IQ exists in every city, but it’s just not together in one place., powered by the Roundtable platform, will bring the Community IQ of Greater Waco together in one place.

Ferrell Foster is content specialist for care and communications at Prosper Waco. He holds a doctorate in ministry, in which he focused on justice issues. He has been a professional ethicist, minister, and communicator.

Emily Hunt-Hinojosa is director of research and community impact at Prosper Waco. Hunt-Hinojosa holds an Associate Fellowship at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, where she was employed prior to joining Prosper Waco. She holds a master’s degree and doctorate in sociology from Baylor University.

New to Waco: Where all the women are strong

What does it feel like to be new to Waco?  What would a new person notice about our town?  What’s it like to try to find your place in our community?  Ferrell Foster is moving to Waco from Georgetown to become a part of the Prosper Waco team.  In this blog series he will share some of his experiences as a Waco newbie.  What will we see when we look at Waco through his fresh eyes?  Read along to find out!  To see all the posts in this series, click here: New to Waco. – ALW

By Ferrell Foster

My first days in Waco brought to mind Garrison Keillor’s introduction to his weekly radio story. “Welcome to Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.”

I know Keillor had his tongue firmly implanted in cheek, but he could have been truthfully referring to the women of Waco. When it comes to Waco women, strong leaders are easy to find.

This is not to negate the good qualities of Waco men. Shoot, we’ve got a mayor that I would put against any mayor in the country. But this is about our women.

I’m not going to name names, but a woman is leading that little school on the east side of I-35. Then there’s the head of the public health district. We’ve got two women leading two of our strongest foundations. Then there’s the woman who is in the middle of everything communicated in this town via the Internet. There’s a woman city council member who brings expertise, heart, and soul to meetings. I’ve tuned in online to hear a woman pastor who keeps many of us grounded in faith. A business-owning woman is a former mayor and is still active in city leadership. A woman leads our community-wide fundraising effort. Can’t forget the leaders of a local mental health facility and a substance abuse center. And, of course, my own boss is one of those leading ladies.

There are many other women providing leadership in our medical facilities, educational institutions, city government, real estate, and businesses. And, there are countless women leading their families (sometimes with a manly assist), and that is an especially important role in our stay-at-home times.

I have met all of the leaders referenced above and encountered women who fit into the next category in my short two months of working in Waco and one week of living here.

Back to Keillor’s intro, I don’t know about the handsomeness of Waco men, but the last phrase about above average children is an exercise in wishful thinking. Average is what it is, and it applies to all sorts of things. Each of us is average in some ways, and below and above average in others. But it’s also true that we can move up from being below average at many things.

One reason you get great leadership from boardroom to living room is because you stress quality education — from start to finish. Education is not just about book smarts; it’s about learning, and that takes many forms.

When I was in high school in Dallas ages ago, I took “distributive education” my senior year. I learned how the marketplace works, and I left school at lunch to work at a regular job — Sears, Roebuck & Co. The academic track eluded me. No one who knew me then, including me, speculated I would someday wear a hooded graduation gown.

Primary and secondary schools prepare us for all kinds of roles in life, and colleges and technical schools help students hone their skills in more specific ways. All of it is education, all of it is important, and all of it can be had right here in Waco.

Garrison Keillor was asked where the name, “Lake Wobegon,” came from. Keillor said the name had Native American roots meaning “the place where we waited all day in the rain [for you].”

I love that. The name, Waco, has a Native American lineage as well, and it gives me a very warm feeling thinking Waco can be a place where we wait all day in the rain for each other.

And to borrow the closing line from Lake Wobegon, “Well, that’s the news from Waco, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.”

Ferrell Foster is content specialist for care and communications at Prosper Waco. He and his wife, Trese, have five adult children and five grandchildren. He is a native Texan, having grown up in Dallas.