written by couples + family therapist Amanda Craig, PhD, LMFT
One of the hardest commodities to come by in life has now been mandated…
As hard as it is to slow down and change habits, this is our present reality. To support the health and wellness of our communities we must make changes to our “business as usual”. One change we can make is the way we spend time with our families. Many who work in the city, travel a lot for work or have long hours are being asked to stay home. Schools are closed, activities are canceled, restaurants are empty. Our daily routine has been turned upside down.
How can you embrace this “opportunity” through emotional connection?
Emotional Connection is essential for optimal health and wellness. Now is a good time to reconnect with our children and partner. When we are in emotionally connected relationships we know the other person will support us, is part of our team, and will have our back in times of trials and tribulations. Emotional connection soothes our nervous system and makes us feel healthier and happier. We feel calm, have more energy, have a more optimistic outlook and are better able to deal with the tough stuff, like the uncertainty we are all experiencing.
For kids emotional connection centers around being understood, spending time together and feeling safe and secure with their parents and caregivers. Kids build a stronger sense of self, are more confident to go out into the world, and are more resilient in times of trial.
If we are depleted and exhausted we cannot be emotionally present for our partner and/or our children. Self-care and self-compassion are essential. Know you matter, you’re doing a great job even in your worst hour, and you’re not in it alone. It’s okay to take time and make sure your own needs are met.
So how can we establish emotional connection?
1. Find time to sit, smile, make eye contact, or give a hug. All these actions show our family members that we care and we are in this together. Our brain actually interprets the experience and feels happier when someone makes eye contact with us, uses a pleasant voice tone, or is near us.
2. Have fun, play, and laugh. We get so caught up in the “have to” we lose sight of the “want to”. Take time to do things together that are fun. Things you haven’t done in a really long time. Play board games, charades, or cards. Paint or draw. Watch a comedy. Play dress up. Listen to music. Dance a jig, or tell jokes.
3. Set a basic consistent schedule each day. Start with a daily morning check-in that the family can count on and Talk about the expectations for the day. Keep as many school day and workday rituals the same including bedtime for kids.
4. Teach and learn. When kids teach adults something their self worth grows exponentially. They get to be the leader, the knower, and the teacher. Bake and cook together, deep clean your garage, start spring yard clean up, think about spring flower planting, create a woodworking project, write short stories together, code, or play video games together. Ask your kids what they want to do by asking open-ended questions or giving multiple-choice options.
5. Be aware of your emotions. Express them and regulate them. We all have fear and anxiety right now, it’s just a matter of how much we are experiencing. Our kids can feel how nervous we are based on our energy. Instead of being impatient or distant or trying to do business as usual talk to your kids about your feelings. Let them know this is an uncertain situation and although we are nervous your family is safe and will get through this together.
6. Ask your kids how they feel? Help them scale their feelings from 1-10. Naming and scaling our feelings shows our kids that feelings are okay. It also opens the door for our kids to express themselves.
7. Make time for you and your partner to hang. Kids can take all of our time and energy. Parents need time to talk, laugh, hang, and make love. If you are both home carve out some time to be together. If you find you don’t want to spend time together talk about why. Where has the joy of being together gone and how do we find it again?
8. Leave some time and space for you. Sit down, delegate, read, write, stretch, or sleep in. Listen for those nudges that are important to you, that always seem to take second fiddle to your family’s needs. Take some time. You will feel better and have more to give your family.
Hopefully, we will never see something like this again, where we are asked to socially distance from the people and places where we usually find support, friendship, compassion, generosity, and connection. Use this as an opportunity to reconnect with your family. You will look back and be so thankful you did!
Written by Amanda Craig, PhD, LMFT
couples and family therapy
Telehealth options available