Parent-child relationships, reinvented during COVID-19 times!
COVID-19 has turned our worlds upside down. It has created a surge of changes, uncertainty, loss, among other challenges. Although, the only constant in life is change, we do not expect to deal with vast changes all at once.
Change can create worry; there are good and bad worries. A good worry motivates us into action. Bad worries interfere with our mood, our problem-solving abilities, and take over our thoughts. It can take a toll on our relationships. Bad worries can be expected during stressful events such as COVID-19.
Parent and child relationships are often vulnerable to stressors, so we can imagine that COVID-19 is causing a variety of stressors for families. Parents are facing a necessity to reevaluate how to manage these stressful times and how to help their children cope. Some of this means that parents are seeking to strengthen the relationship they have with their children; times of need create an opportunity for us to reinvent ourselves.
As a child/youth therapist, I have been encountering parents sharing their vulnerabilities and asking for guidance: “How do I help my kids? How do I ask them for what they need, without overwhelming them even more?” The redirection has at times focused on fun, interactive, and playful ways. Kids responds to play. Play is a tool that breaks down inhibitions. Play allows kids to share their inner world.
In Solution Focus Therapy, there are some guiding assumptions that we hold about parents and children.
Children want to:
Have their parents be proud of them
Please their parents and other adults
Be accepted and be part of the social group in which they live
Learn new things
Be active and be involved in activities with others
Be surprised and surprise others
Voice their opinions and choices
Make choices when given an opportunity
Parents want to:
Be proud of their children
Have a positive impact on their child
Hear good news about their child and learn what their child is good
Give their child a good education and a good chance at success
See that their child’s future is better than their’s
Have a good relationship with their child
Be hopeful about their child
For the parents reading this, let us look at what playful and meaningful interactions can look like:
If children want to surprise, have children create stories, put on plays, host show-and-tell about their interests. In self-disclosure, I played indoor hide-n-seek at midnight with my teen kids during this pandemic, and it was such a blast, it’s becoming a regular request!
If children want to learn new things: engage in games that are age appropriate and ones that explore their creativity (board games, charades, card games, etc.)
If children want to be active and be involved in activities with others: have children join you in the kitchen. At times, you can allow them to lead and you become the sous-chefs! Remember, kids want to make choices when given an opportunity. Cooking allows kids to take some risks and problem solve.
I am confident in the assumption that we all are trying our hardest. I am also confident in the assumption that families want calm, not chaos, and they will keep trying to make things work to maintain a sense of balance. Although, we are living times of great uncertainty, we have the capacity to reinvent ourselves.
Kids will join in your calm and will look to their adult figures to help them decide how to manage the increasing changes that they are experiencing. Trust that you have led your kids through other difficulties in the past and that you are equipped to continue troubleshooting.
Be patient with yourselves and with your kids! Continue to seek support from the helpers in your life; "You will always find people who are helping”, says Mr. Rogers.