Staying "Relationship First" in Isolation

for parents for program directors Mar 30, 2020
If you’re like me you have had every thought there is to have about this virus. You have challenged yourself to be positive, help your neighbor, see how you can contribute to our overall sense of community. You have also had the thoughts about the world ending and bread lines and how you make your children clothes out of your clothes even though you don’t know how to sew.
I encourage you to embrace all aspects of yourself right now. Take care of the little person inside of you that is scared. Tell him or her that this is scary and that it’s okay to be scared. Treat yourself like you would treat your kids. It is okay to not feel like super parent when you’re dealing with something that you’ve never dealt with before, let alone the entire world has never dealt with before.
By taking care of yourself you will be taking care of your kids.
It is important that you don’t pretend right now. Kids see everything. It is so much better to acknowledge what is going on. Have family discussions and acknowledge their feelings. If your child has yet to catch on, or is a baby like mine, obviously it's okay to just let them be a kid. But, as soon as your kid notices a change in their routine, in their world, talk to them about it.
Remember, children need to know they are safe and that they have security. A foster or adopted child may VERY well be wondering "what does this mean for me?" Speak directly to that. Remind your family that no matter what, you will stay together or that at the very least, you will make sure that every child in your home will be taken care of and that you will do your best to keep their daily lives normal and routine. You may need to repeat this several times a day.
There are many children in foster care right now who cannot have visits with their biological parents, so let those children know that you will do whatever needs to happen to have a virtual visit or phone call with their bio parents. This is also great time to practice writing letters.
If there are any relationships your kids have that will be interrupted, whether it be mentor relationships teachers, siblings, bio parents, whoever, plan to write them letters or record video messages to send to them.
With extra time at home, this may be a great time to go through photo albums or any other keepsakes you have of the beginning of your children’s life.
Relationships are the most important thing right now. If you are teaching from home, academics need to take a back seat to relationships. Many parents have a hard enough time with homework, let alone teaching your kids the full curriculum. My advice is to let it go. This school year will pass. Putting you, as the parent, in a position to make sure your kids get their work done creates a pressure cooker effect in children surviving with trauma. This could result in a line of thinking like...If I get my work done then I'm good and I can stay and everything will be okay…. That's way too much to put on a child. They are inherently good. Where they live is not contingent on their school work or behavior. Take this time to learn through play. Explore your children’s interests, strengths, passions and let them lead. Show them how great they are at things that interest them.
Behaviors tend to ramp up when there is tension in the air. These are the times to regulate yourself so you can help regulate your child. These are the times when you sit in the suck with them, empathize and validate that this is tough. Reassure them that this will pass, you will be okay and no matter what, you will be there for them.
Remember when you are struggling, label it. Tell them you’re frustrated, and that sometimes you get scared too. Normalize having big feelings. Model what giving grace looks like and when you don’t do this well, apologize. Tell them you’re sorry and that you didn’t handle your big emotions well, that it isn't their fault and that you are so happy you have a family that gives grace. This repairs the relationship and normalizes all the ups and downs that everyone goes through.
This experience is a bit crazy for all of us, and although we are all experiencing it together we are all doing so differently. While our patience is being tested we are given the opportunity to discover what truly matters. This is the time to soften, lean into the things that matter and let go of the things that don't.

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