Parenting During Covid
Many people are experiencing more stress than usual during this time period. You might be experiencing the loss of a family member, a job, or the stresses of spending too much time at home with children in addition to the collective toll of an international pandemic. We are all reeling from this experience.
Children too are facing their own stresses, and they are picking up on our anxieties. Times are hard, and the best way to handle stress is to allow feelings to surface and to approach them with loving kindness and acceptance.
Unfortunately, hard times means little patience for tolerating and digesting difficult emotions, and so chances are, instead of children expressing their feelings to an attentive, caring adult, they are manifesting difficult behaviors instead. Maybe they’re constantly bugging their younger sibling, or increasingly defiant, extra picky with their food, not cooperating with bed time, or spending more time on video games despite the limits set around it.
A “parenting by connection” approach means that you meet each of these behavioral struggles with more connection, rather than more control.
This is often where parents get stuck. When a child is misbehaving they try to control the child more through yelling, or more reward and punishment.
With increased connection, the child is able to offload difficult feelings that otherwise interfere with their ability to think clearly and make good choices. That means that a caring adult needs to listen to many of the feelings that are underneath the surface of the behavioral problem.
Through no fault of our own, we don’t always know how to listen to children’s feelings. Understandably, we get frustrated or impatient and don’t always comprehend why our child is being emotional about something that seems petty.
Children, on the other hand, are desperate to express/release their upset feelings, and will use any pretext to begin to offload their uncomfortable emotions. Their emotional part of their brain (the amygdala) is active, and they’d like to be able to return to full thinking capacity (located in the prefrontal cortex) in order to get on with their day.
The reason they are crying is less significant than the fact that they have accessed a painful emotion. What would it be like to know that your child is crying for very good reasons? Would it make it easier to fully hear them out, and remain present when they are upset?
Think about a time in your life when you were stressed, and many frustrations were building over the course of the day. Then, as you entered your home, imagine you banged your big toe against the door. Suddenly, all these emotions, all of the stress of the day, would come pouring out. Have you had that kind of experience? It’s not really about banging your toe- it was just the final straw that allowed all of those pent up feelings to emerge.
It’s the same with children. Now more than ever, in order to tap into our own and our children’s innate resilience, we need to show up for them and their feelings. The only way to fully do that without being depleted is to bolster our own support system, and make sure that we too are fully emotionally attended to.
For this reason, no parenting method can be effective without a strategy for self-care. We as parents need to make sure that we are nurtured if we are to parent effectively.
Join me to find out ways that parents can support each other emotionally to do the hard work of parenting.
Also, together we can learn how to respond to a child who is in the midst of a tantrum, crying spell, or emotional bout and unlearn old ways of reacting to their feelings and our own.