Photo credit:@scoutthecity on unsplash.com
Most parents feel emotionally taxed, mentally exhausted and depleted of physical energy, all for obvious reasons. With children being out of school for the summer break, we may feel relieved that “homeschooling” is no longer the word of the day. However, parents face a greater challenge: and that is, how to occupy their children’s time in the face of so many social distancing restrictions all around us.
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, 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.
Furthermore, we know from scientific research, that nothing can ever 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 now forgotten: that the most vital need of any child to develop properly is the need for attachment and connection.
Therefore, I am inviting all parents to reconsider this year’s summer and prioritize what really matters: connection with your child. There is no greater gift that a child can receive but the connection s/he feels with the parents and primary caregivers.
Here are 7 tips and easy ideas to foster connection with your child, even in the most difficult moments of parenting:
1. laugh with your child every day; don’t take yourself too seriously; find ways to solve problems through laughter;
2. do whatever your child wants 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, etc. Follow your child’s lead in whatever activity they choose.
3. listen to your child’s feelings with patience and reverence. If they express anger or have a need to throw a tantrum, cry or yell, say things like: “ I will be here for you to make sure you are safe. I will not rush you to feel your feelings; I will not feel embarrassed by what other people will say about your behavior; I will not invalidate your feelings of fear, anger, disappointment, hate, jealousy or sadness. I will be there for you for as long as you need to feel your feelings. “
4. set limits and say “no” with patience 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”.
5. help your child more with summer school ( if applicable) and house chores. Say things like: “ I will not do the work for you, but I will partner up with you. You need support to be successful. I will not let you fail. You are never alone.”
6. 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. It is never your fault if I don’t feel good in my own skin. I take full responsibility for how I feel and who I am at any given time. Your job is to play and be happy. I will come back to you in few minutes. “
7. find ways to take care of yourself and keep your own emotional “tank” filled. Exchange listening time with another parent, take walks alone in nature, meditate, journal, dance, or talk to someone you trust if things feel too hard to handle. Parenting is hard work and no one can do it alone. All parents need and deserve support.
To learn 5 science-based connection tools with your child, take Mihaela’s class starting on July 20, 2020. Details here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/hand-in-hand-parenting-online-starter-class-6-weeks-with-mihaela-tickets-109246392902?aff=erelpanelorg