COVID-19 Parenting Pep Talk: Make Time for Connection

About this resource
Reviewed: 2020

Before the COVID-19 situation, many of us, myself included, were used to taking our young children to childcare or preschool on working days. Now, we may be working from home or different hours, and we may have lost many of our predictable daily routines. In addition, many family, friends, and coworkers are no longer part of our routines. This can leave us feeling grief and sadness about the missed connections.

Young children are also missing connections with playmates, teachers, and extended family. This may lead to challenging behaviors to communicate their feelings of loss. Challenging behaviors are often how a child says “I need you to help me figure out what I am feeling” when they don’t have the words to ask for help.

For example, a child may start dumping out toys all over the floor because that causes a caregiver to say “STOP dumping the toys.” By gaining the caregiver’s attention, the child has filled the need for connection. However, this negative interaction may frustrate the caregiver and still leave the child wanting a positive connection.

I also have been overwhelmed by finding balance with all the tasks I need to do at home and have noticed my preschooler’s challenging behaviors to get my attention. I’ve found myself in a negative cycle of “stop” and “no” with him that leaves me worn out.

What pep talk can I give myself? I know that a way to prevent challenging behaviors is to plan ahead for moments of connection. These moments of thoughtful connection can change the mood of the day and redirect a child’s behaviors to more positive ones. These moments of positive connection don’t have to be long or fancy to be meaningful to a young child. Even taking time to focus on connecting with your child for five minutes can change the moment. As a bonus, these moments of connection are moments for early learning, too!

Here are five 5-minute ideas to get you started:

  • Look through photos of people or fun times that you may be missing and talk about happy memories.
  • Find something your child can help with around the house and do it together, such as sorting socks or scrubbing potatoes. (As a bonus, playing in the water is a great sensory way to calm down!) Pour on the positive compliments with encouraging words that help your preschooler know you are proud they can help with family chores.
  • Create a sketchbook. Find an old notebook or simply fold a piece of paper into a booklet. Scribble and draw side by side. Write down your child’s words.
  • Go outside for a walk on the sidewalk or in the back yard to play. Toss a ball back and forth or play “I Spy” and describe to your child the things you see all around. You are connecting as you look each other in the eye to toss the ball or play a guessing game.
  • Make time to read a story or a poem together. Many public libraries have e-books or other services available if you are looking for something new to read. Or simply read an old favorite book and smile together.

I have found these five-minute “fill ups” of connection help make my household a little bit more peaceful during this trying time. I hope trying this strategy brings peace to your household, too.

Rebecca Swartz
rswartz@illinois.edu

Dr. Rebecca Swartz, an early learning specialist for IEL, completed her doctorate in human development and family studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Rebecca’s research and outreach work focuses on infant-toddler care, home-based child care, and the social-emotional development of young children. Her goal is to help parents and early educators by providing evidence-based resources on child development and early learning.
Biography current as of 10/2019