Over the last few weeks, normal life has been turned upside down. Everyone is struggling with the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic, schools closing, canceled activities and the need for families to isolate. Parenting can be challenging at the best of times — especially when you are raising a child with an attachment disorder. Now, add the increased pressure of being home together all day with little opportunity for social and physical distance, and it is hardly surprising that parenting stress is exacerbated.
With this in mind, we are sharing some of our best parenting recommendations to help you foster positive outcomes during difficult times.
Be Calm and Confident
To be calm is synonymous with being level-headed, peaceful, patient and composed. However, remaining calm isn’t easy — especially if you have challenging children.
The usual reactions of frustrated parents are to impose their wills, retaliate or withdraw to avoid a fight. While those approaches may bring short-term satisfaction to the parent, they aren’t the building blocks for establishing a loving, lifelong relationship. The only effective way to positively influence children is to gain their trust, making them willing — not necessarily happy — to follow your direction. A calm and consistent approach to parenting works best.
But even if you aren’t always able to keep your cool, be confident in your parenting. Many parents have the tendency to question themselves. But constantly doubting yourself and your parenting abilities is just not healthy. Instead, trust that what you are doing is helping your children. Be confident. If you have confidence in yourself, then your children will also. Children feel safe with confident parents, who they see as capable and dependable.
Routines – such as eating dinner, getting dressed or preparing for bed – are patterned interactions that occur with predictable regularity in the course of everyday living. Routines provide a way to accomplish a certain task and an opportunity to connect with your child. They organize family life, reinforce family identity and enhance a sense of belonging.
Giving children chores helps them feel a sense of responsibility and connectedness to their family. Chores can increase self-confidence, internalize values, and encourage children to become cooperative with family members. Parents who do not have their children do chores are missing an opportunity for character-building especially at a time when many of the activities that usually build confidence and responsibility, such as being on a sports team, volunteering or attending school and church are not taking place. Make sure you hold your children accountable for completing their chores.
Practice Problem Solving
Problem solving is critical to every part of our lives, both personal and professional. It is the process of identifying a problem, developing possible solution paths, and taking the appropriate course of action. Strong problem solving skills empower us to face a dilemma head-on, use already-familiar techniques to reach a desired outcome, and solve the problem with the least difficulty possible in the most effective way.
In the family setting, having good problem solving abilities makes us feel competent and hopeful and strengthens our relationships.
Navigate Sibling Conflict
Now is a time when sibling conflicts that might lay dormant when children are busy with school and activities are probably cropping up.
Parents need to know when to intervene and when not to. Children need coaching in how to resolve conflicts in a healthy way. However, it is not helpful to continually settle disagreements for children. Intervening might stop fighting temporarily, but it does not teach siblings how to resolve conflicts themselves. Give them the support, guidance and skills — and the opportunities to implement those skills.
Choose Consequences over Punishment
Parents are often unclear about the difference between consequences and punishment — and that’s one reason efforts to discipline children can be ineffective.
A consequence is the result or direct effect of an action. The goal for giving consequences is to teach a lesson that leads the child to make positive choices. It encourages self-examination, accepting responsibility for one’s actions, the ability to learn from mistakes, and the development of an inner voice of self-control. Consequences give your child the message that he is capable of taking responsibility for problems and can handle them.
Punishment is defined by Merriam-Webster as “suffering, pain, or loss that serves as retribution.” It can cause resentment and rarely teaches a child what you want him to learn.
Finally, make sure to take care of yourself during this difficult time. Avoid parent burnout so that you can continue to parent your child in a healthy, effective and healing way. As the saying goes: You can’t pour from an empty cup.