As many parents’ balance working from home, helping their children with distance learning, and trying to meet everyone’s basic needs, communication skills can sometimes suffer under the weight of managing it all.
It’s important—especially during times of stress—to give special attention to how we communicate with our children.
Here, there, everywhere!
There are a lot of important things demanding your attention right now. You may have virtual work meetings or deadlines; multiple children with their own virtual class meetings; a fussy baby; maybe your partner is also working from home, creating another level of chaos in the home. The constant barrage of demands can make you feel short-tempered and irritable.
But children are perceptive and can be sensitive to the stress levels of their caregivers. They notice when we are distracted, short with them, or sound irritated.
If you are struggling to communicate with patience and understanding, try incorporating a few stress-management skills, such as mindfulness (Stop, Pause, Focus. Take a deep breath in and notice how it feels), deep breathing, and exercise into your day. And don’t forget to take care of yourself through eating a balanced diet and getting adequate sleep. When you are well rested and relaxed, you are better able to handle what life throws at you—or what possibly your toddler (literally) throws at you!
Keep the lines of communication open
Children process their stress, worry, and grief in different ways and at different times. Your child may suddenly come to you saddened by the thought of not seeing his classmates until next fall. When these moments happen, try to drop what you’re doing and be available to listen. Lend a supportive ear and reassure your child that it’s healthy and normal to have feelings of fear, anxiety, anger, or sadness. Research from ACEs Connection shows that what creates positive childhood experiences is when children feel safe in their families to talk about emotions and difficult topics, as well as feeling supported during challenging times.
Communication through more than just words
Not all of us are born with the gift of gab and may struggle to open up when it comes to our emotions. This can also be true for children. Allow your child to express themselves through a variety of outlets, including art, storytelling, imaginative play, dance, etc.
You don’t have to wait until your child comes to you to talk about feelings. You and your child might benefit from end-of-the-day chats to reflect on how the day went (the ups and downs), anything that is worrying your child, plans for conquering the next day, etc.
You can also use these chats to get in some extra snuggles, handholds, and one-on-one time—all which communicate to your child love, safety, and support.
This article appeared in the May 2020 issue of Oregon Family Magazine.