The world around us seems to be changing daily as we navigate these incredibly unusual circumstances. So much uncertainty can leave us feeling as though the ground beneath us is shifting and what we did yesterday to maintain a sense of order and stability isn’t going to work today. There are still a few things that we can count on to stay the same though. Our kids will be waiting each morning for us be with them, meet their needs, teach them life skills and help them feel safe. While your flexibility, creativity and patience may be put to the test daily, you may also experience a different rhythm of connection that comes only from sharing the same space day after day. Here are a few reminders to help you stay grounded and continue on your journey of connected parenting.
1. Be mindful of how often you are talking about what’s going outside of your safe space and the language you are using to describe it. Children are listening to what you think and feel and will be taking their cues from you. We know that kids hear everything (except when you ask them to do chores ;). They may not be processing it at the moment they hear it, but they will soon enough. As luck would have it, this is usually bedtime or any other time when children must slow down their bodies and minds.
2. Keep a routine in place so that some of your child’s daily life can remain predictable. Have a visual schedule for your children do they know what to expect from the day. If things must change refer to the situation as a ‘wildcard’ and return to the schedule as soon as you can. Wildcards are unexpected changes that can be both preferred and not preferred. They teach children flexibility as well as assuring them that most of the time they will know what to expect.
3. Remind yourself that children who have experienced trauma may respond differently to fear based situations. A child’s brain struggles to differentiate between the fears of the past and the fears of the present. This may present as an increase in anxious behaviors and symptoms that seem unrelated to the current situation. Talk with your child about how the ‘scary that’s happening now’ can remind their body of the ‘scary that happened before.’ Work with your child to create a sense of safety in whatever way they need that to happen. Safety is something you need to help your child experience. You won’t be able to convince them to feel safe with words alone.
4. Take this opportunity to slow down and spend as much time as possible playing on the floor with your child. Play will be your child’s way of processing what is happening and what it’s like for them. Slow down your breathing and increase your focus so that you can practice being mindful of the interactions you are having. Being on the floor also has the added benefit of feeling grounded which we all need a little more of right now. If you have multiple children schedule 1-1 time with each child while others are set up with independent activities. This may feel impossible to begin with but keep practicing.
5. Keep your child connected with the important people in their lives. Think of all the people you see regularly under normal circumstances and help your child feel close to them despite the physical distance. There are many creative ways to make this happen: Facetime, phone calls, making videos, sending emails, drawing pictures or writing letters that can be sent virtually or in the mail, take photos of your children with the purpose of sending to people they love and ask for photos in return. If none of these are possible, ask your child to just talk and pretend the person they love is listening with their heart.
We are available to support your family during this crisis by offering many of our therapeutic interventions via Teletherapy including: parent child play, life span integration, individual therapy and parent consultations. Stay tuned for our upcoming online webinar on managing your child’s anxiety during this difficult time!