Social distancing this year has not been without its repercussions. As parents, it’s actually one of our biggest challenges. The social-emotional struggles have taken a toll on people of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds. Family dynamics are strained as people cope with a myriad of traumatic experiences this year.
For children and teens specifically, a lack of regular structure and social engagement has lead to decreased innovative ideas, or even finding motivation to engage in school work. Anxiety, depression, are increasing due to an increased time on screens. Many children and teens may be grieving lost opportunities, such as: graduations, school activities, or play dates. If spirits have been low, or you have experienced more conflict with your child during this time, neuropsychologist, Rada West, PhD, provides tactics that you can use at home to implement, to improve morale and relationships.
The first way to support your children at home is to address feelings of isolation.
- Devote undivided attention to your child every day.
- Be present and attuned.
- Create structure that work for both parents and children
- Model the behavior you expect from your children.
Fostering a safe space at home, between you and your child, can alleviate feelings of loneliness and anxiety, which encourages greater engagement among family members. Creating a space between you and your children that is open, supportive, and actively engaged is crucial when other social interaction is limited. Spending quality time together, actively listening, and keeping a structured day, contribute to a family truly being a unit. Remember that it begins with you: whatever you would like to see in your children you must model for them first.
Even in a supportive family environment, resistance may still occur when it comes to setting boundaries with social media and personal devices. Dr. West encourages parents to work together, with their children, to find fair solutions for acceptable media or device use. She says, “It’s important to work together as a unit and come to an agreement as to what is reasonable. They have their needs to socially engage over social media. But check in with them with a perspective of curiosity rather than attacking them. Come with a curious mind and engage with them; having open engagement with them about social media etiquette is crucial.”
Discussing internet safety regularly is important, as well as respectfully checking in on their devices. Parents can also use screen management apps for their child’s device to set safe boundaries.
While social distancing is a challenge, your parental support can be the respite your child needs to face it.
To watch Rada’s full interview, click here.