I’m a proud responsibility.org ambassador this year and was compensated to write this blog post. As always all opinions are my own.
The past year has been difficult for everyone. Unfortunately, our children sometimes suffer in silence. It’s a confusing time for us as adults, so imagine how our kids feel. As the pandemic continues, so does social isolation and virtual learning. Depression rates are at a high right now as our kids are feeling disconnected from their friends, teachers, and family. Let’s look at some ways that we can ease their loneliness and help them feel connected again.
Connecting With Our Kids During The Pandemic
What is learned Helplessness?
Have you noticed that your child feels completely disengaged in their schooling or maybe even with you? This is true for a lot families right now. Many of our kids are experiencing learned helplessness. Learned helplessness is the feeling that no matter what you do, it won’t have an impact or change anything, so they see no point in engaging.
When the pandemic first began, we never could have imagined it would last this long. Almost one year later, our children are still in virtual school and removed from their normal extracurricular activities. For some, the hope that they had in the beginning has faded and they’ve reached the point where they are feeling quite helpless and lost.
Our children’s socio-emotional health is being affected and that’s a difficult thing to watch as a parent. For older children, it can also lead to risky behaviors, such as underage drinking.
How can we help?
Above all, it’s so important that we make our kids feel connected and engaged, even if it’s within the boundaries of our homes.
1. Give them control
Even if our children cannot vocalize it, most things in their world feels totally out of their control right now. They can’t go over to their friend’s house or go to sports practice. Most of them haven’t even met their teachers in person!
It’s important to give them things they can control. Give them the ability to control decisions whenever possible.
Which movie would you like to watch tonight?
What would you like for breakfast?
Would you rather go for a walk or read a book outside?
These simple questions give them the ability to be in control of at least a few things throughout their day.
2. Allow them to be in their own space
You know that feeling of wanting to lock yourself in your room and be in silence? Our kids feel that too. If it’s safe and age appropriate, let your child have a safe space where they do school work, hang out, or talk to their friends on the phone. It’s more important than ever for them to have that sacred space.
3. Love the child you have
As a parent of four children, I constantly have to remind myself that each of my kids are unique and have their own strengths. If you are having challenges with your kids right now, try to remember to love the kid you have, not the kid you wish you had.
One of your kids may thrive with online school, while the other can’t sit still for more than five minutes. That’s okay. They are each individuals with their own personalities. Celebrate even the smallest wins with your kids. It will make them feel special and connected to you.
4. Show them your mistakes
Sometimes our kids need to see us struggling. It helps them understand that it’s normal to feel defeated, frustrated, or upset. If you are all at home together, let them in on what you do for work. If you make a mistake, let them see it! I
t’s the perfect time to highlight the importance of the process, not just the outcome. You can relate this to what they face in their school work. Not to mention that they’ll love having a behind the scenes understanding of what their mom or dad do for work.
5. Start a conversation
Your child may just need you to start a conversation to help them open up about how they are feeling. Name the feelings that they are experiencing, and let them know they aren’t the only ones feeling that way. Even if they aren’t very vocal during this conversation, knowing that you are there to support them will help them to feel more connected.
Another suggestion is to talk about the future. You can say things like “when things go back to normal..“. This will give your children the ability to imagine the possibility of it happening. We all need things to look forward to.
6. Manage your own feelings
I’ve preached this before, and I’ll do it again because I believe in it so strongly. If your mental health is not in check, you will not be emotionally available to support your children. You need to find time in your day for yourself when you can focus on you and sit in your feelings. Some ideas are:
- take up a hobby like knitting, painting, or cooking
- journal for five minutes per day
- have a designated reading time
- get up early to exercise and have your coffee in silence
- start weekly therapy
Are you interested in more support on parenting during a pandemic? I recommend reading my post on how to help our kids through loss of rituals.
You can find other helpful resources on how to support your children during this time on Responsibility.org.