Keeping Connections Strong as we Stay at Home

Each week we publish an article that focuses on different aspect of Positive Parenting. Articles are contributed by members of Parenting Limerick, a network of agencies working with parents and families in Limerick city and county.

This week we are looking at how to keep connections strong while we are asked to stay at home.

Connections are the bonds and relationships that make your child feel safe and loved in the world. Relationships with parents and other key people are the most important connection that your child has. At this time of uncertainty, the need for these connections are even greater as they help to calm worries while also support young children to manage change.

As we all adjust to new restrictions and stay at home, it is normal to feel that we have lost connections with people that are most important to us. Play dates, trips to grandparents, connection with Crèche or Preschool teachers, visits to the park and supermarket have suddenly stopped. Young children are unlikely to make sense of this and as a result may struggle to understand why they can’t go to the park, or visit Nanna or even have their little friends over to play.

Letting your child know that you are there for them is really important. By using some simple connection tips you can help your little one to make sense of big and confusing emotions. Young children often need you to name what is happening for them to help them understand, for example when we name how they feel by saying ‘I know you are sad/ cross because you can’t get out to play’. This lets your child know you can help them with their feelings helping to also keep connections strong.

At these times a comfort toy such as a favourite teddy, a soother, blanket or any other object can become more important. This can happen for older children also who may not have looked for teddy for a while! These favourite objects can provide comfort for children helping them to stay in a calm state as well as plenty of hugs and cuddles from you!

Your child will love to hear stories about events that happened with the key people in their lives. Telling stories about the special people in their lives can be a lovely way to keep connections. For example, children especially love the story of who came to see them when they were born, and how excited everyone was! This is a great way to remind them of how special and loved they are!

Laughing is a great way to keep connections strong, science has shown us that laughing releases feel good chemicals that are positive for your child’s wellbeing helping their brains and bodies to grow. Trying to make time to laugh, dance, sing, joke, “be silly” with your child, is also a great way to reduce parents’ own stress and get your daily dose of vitamin L (Vitamin Laugh!).

Keeping in touch via video call or social media can help keep connections secure. This is especially helpful for older friends and relatives who may be cocooning and have to stay indoors.

Dr Suzanne Zeedyk, a Scottish research psychologist, talks about “clothing yourself in love”, wearing a particular jumper/ item of clothes piece of jewellery that has a connection to a loved one, as being a great practical way of keeping connections strong while apart, wearing the PJs Granny bought for Christmas helps keep positive connections.

Making time for play every day strengthens connections, setting aside short blocks of uninterrupted time during the day, when you can follow your child’s lead, have fun and play will really help your little one to be develop resilience – or build their “emotional muscles” as we all get through this.

Talking about what you will do when these restrictions are lifted can be a good way to help you and your child remain positive, while also helping them understand that things will get back to normal. Think about what they might like to do with friends when they can meet up again? Let them plan a simple activity or trip.

As a parent you are doing all that you can to support your child to manage in these difficult times, but don’t forget to build in some ‘me’ time. Think about making time for you to connect with people that can help support you either by phone, social media or even old fashioned letters! This will help you to manage these stressful times until we can connect again in our usual ways. And don’t forget the vitamin L!

This article was written by ABC Start Right, an early intervention project in Limerick and a member of Parenting Limerick. Parenting Limerick is a network of parenting and family support organisations. For more positive parenting support go to www.loveparenting.ie. For up to date and accurate information and advice on COVID-19 go to www.hse.ie/coronavirus.