Read on to learn why connection is key for keeping your family secure through Covid-19
Covid-19 has left most of us parents feeling emotionally taxed, mentally exhausted and depleted of physical energy, all for obvious reasons.
With children out of school for the summer break, we may feel relieved that “homeschooling” is no longer the word of the day, now, however, we face a greater challenge: How to occupy our children’s time with so many social distancing restrictions around us.
Hurdle number one? We’re guessing it’s screens.
Yes, kids LOVE video games and screens of all kinds and each family will decide how much screen time is acceptable in their household. Also, we know that older children prefer to play with their friends and peers, online and offline.
Co-authors Gordon Neufeld, Ph.D., and Gabor Mate, M.D., cite the Pediatrics journal ( 2011) in their book, Hold On to Your Kids, that states: “According to a recent poll, 22% of teenagers log on to their favorite social media site more than 10 times a day(…). 75% of teenagers now own cell phones (…), thus, a large part of this generation’s social and emotional development is occurring while on the internet and on cell phones.”
The authors also draw attention to concerning statistics regarding internet pornography, cyber-bullying, and increasing dependency to video-gaming at an early age.
Of course, we know from scientific research that screens will never replace the parent-child connection that is fundamental to a child’s optimal brain development and life-long emotional wellbeing.
The Education Training Research Associates (ETR), with funding from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, conducted a literature review on the effects of parents developing a secure connection with their children early in life. The final publication, Parent-Child Connectedness: Implications for Research, Interventions, and Positive Impacts on Adolescent Health (2004), brings together findings from 600 research studies on the parent-child connection. ETR’s meta-study concludes that the parent-child connection is the “super-protective factor” against adverse outcomes in adolescence, such as drug abuse, teen pregnancy or violence, or dropping out of high-school.
These findings reinforce what humans always have known but seem to have forgotten: that the most vital need of any child’s development is the need for attachment and connection.
There is no greater gift a child can receive than the connection he or she feels with parents and primary caregivers. So, this summer, decide on your screentime, get those guidelines in place early, and then devote as much time connecting with your child.
Seven Ways To Keep Connected Everyday
These seven tips and easy ideas will help you foster connection with your child every day, even in these most difficult moments of parenting:
Laugh with your child every day; don’t take yourself too seriously; find ways to solve problems through laughter. Joke, play rough and tumble games, be silly. If you find play hard, check out this list of 25 Ideas To Get To More Playful Parenting
Do whatever your child wants for at least 10 minutes a day totally uninterrupted and undistracted. Promise not to check your phone, not to worry about cooking, cleaning or work. Give this time a name, such as Special Time, Mommy or Daddy and Me Time, or Boss Time. Follow your child’s lead in whatever activity they choose.
Listen to your child’s feelings with patience. If they express anger or have a need to throw a tantrum, cry or yell, say things like: “I’m sorry it’s hard,” “I’m right here.” I’ll be here for you for as long as you need to feel your feelings.” You can read the science behind this approach and how crying is emotionally healthy for children’s development.
Set limits and say “no” with warmth and love. Children need limits to grow strong and to feel safe in the world. Be firm but kind. Do not use shame, guilt or humiliation to “make them listen to you”. You can use this approach to set kind, firm limits in five words or less.
Help your child more with summer school if you are doing it, and chores. Say things like: “I will not do the work for you, but I will partner up with you.” Here are four ideas to try if your child resists doing chores.
Be vulnerable and authentic with your child. Don’t be afraid to open up to your child and say things like, “I don’t know/ I need help/ I am not in a good place right now/ I need some time alone /I messed up/ I will come back to you in few minutes.“ Your child will see that in your house all feelings and emotions are valid and seen.
Find ways to take care of yourself and keep your own emotional “tank” filled. Exchange listening time with other parents, take walks alone in nature, meditate, journal, dance, or talk to someone you trust if things feel too hard to handle. Parenting is hard and no one can do it alone. All parents need and deserve support.
Following these seven steps—or at least some of them—daily, will keep your family strong and secure through a summer with Covid-19 and beyond. We’d love to hear how they work for you.
Hand in Hand Instructor Mihaela Plugarasu is the lucky mother of an 8-year old boy, a co-parent and a college professor in Miami, Florida and loves teaching about children’s emotions and how to parent them well. For more practical tools and ideas, catch up with Mihaela on her Parenting Made Conscious Facebook Page
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