With so much of our focus in dealing with the COVID 19 being drawn to issues concerning work issues, financial stress, childcare worries, and the future in general, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that our children are affected by the angst of this crisis as well. Helping your child calm their fears is largely going to depend on your ability to maintain clear, supportive communication with them.
While the words, tone and message are important, being listened to and understood is often going to rely on what your child has come to expect from your relationship. Here are some suggestions to help develop that relationship and set the stage for communicating with your child.
Spend quality time with your child. Quality time only happens in the midst of quantity time. The investment of time and attention with your child (of any age) is like making an emotional deposit into your child. If there comes a time later when you need to take an emotional withdrawal by having a conversation he or she would rather not have, these investments help your child know that you value them and that you have only the best intentions for them.
Be available for your children. Plan time on a regular basis to spend time with your children. If you have more than one child, schedule some time at least once each month when you spend time individually with each child. Relationship building is primarily done one-on-one. Giving individual attention to each child communicates that he or she is important to you. During these individual times, you see aspects of your child’s personality you will not see when they are part of a larger group. It also allows your child to see you when you are not distracted by their siblings or exasperated by the demands of parenting multiple children.
Demonstrate respect to your child. Remember that they have emotional reactions to how you treat them and you are probably their biggest influence on how they see themselves. Rather than trying to correct every behavior, target your comments to what’s most important. Too much correction leads a child to feeling discouraged and that they “can never satisfy” you. A child can become overwhelmed when criticism and correction outweighs your positive reinforcement and recognition of the things they do well.
Larry Deavers is a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker and Executive Director of Family Counseling Service of West Alabama.