Encompass Blog

Connection Over Perfection During COVID-19

March 26, 2020  |  Behavioral Health, Parenting  |  By Megan Walsh, MSW, LICSW

Stressed mom looks on while her sons jump on the bed

It’s just after 10:00 am, and I’ve already heard from a few clients and a few personal friends today that the biggest struggle in their home right now is academics. Some parents are feeling like they must single-handedly ensure that their child doesn’t forget what they’ve learned so far this year and prepare them to return to school (someday) without missing a beat.

I know that struggle firsthand, and I’ll tell you what I’m telling myself: STOP!

Stop forcing yourself and your child beyond what you are capable of right now. If you have a child who thrives on learning and hops out of bed ready to learn trig at 8:00 am, great! But if you have a kiddo who is enjoying their extra sleep, spending more time with pets, and getting outside, that is great too. It is not worth risking your or your child’s mental health, sense of attachment, and connected relationship to force academics right now. Science tells us that stressed kids can’t learn and stressed parents can’t help kids become less dysregulated.

What I would suggest is focusing on increasing your own self-regulation. Do what you have to do to help your own internal systems calm: have a good cry, scream into a pillow, take a long walk, make your favorite chocolate chip cookies, or connect with a friend over FaceTime. Then, and only then, will you be ready to connect with your kiddo in meaningful ways and increase the playfulness in your interactions to minimize the fear they may be feeling.

In order to do that, try to brainstorm what your senses crave and set up opportunities to enjoy those things. When times are challenging and it all feels like too much, go back to the basics:

  • Touch: Play in some sand or rice. Take a bubble bath. Dig in the dirt. Jump or swing or sway together.
  • Taste: Make your favorite smoothie or have a bite of your favorite sweet or salty treat. Maybe you could even blindfold each other and do taste tests!
  • Sound: Turn up the music and sing or hum a great song. Create a playlist you can all enjoy or introduce each other to music you wouldn’t have chosen.
  • Sight: Practice noticing what you see outside. What is blooming right now, and how is the weather changing? Play games like “I Spy…”
  • Smell: Break out the lotions or scented soaps and give each other hand massages. Dream together about the way the salt water smells in the summer or about the memories that come up when you think about certain smells.

It is absolutely okay to release the pressure valve of the expectation to do more, be better, and focus on achievement. Maybe this is our time to pause, look around, and really get to know ourselves and our precious kids.

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