As if your day-to-day concerns hadn’t been enough, now you and your children are facing a pandemic and its aftermath. This crisis disconnected many of us from our usual support systems and disrupted our usual routines. In this challenging environment, it is more important than ever that we connect with our children. Our relationship with them is powerful! It can help them develop resilience to cope with adversity and continue to grow.
A supportive relationship doesn’t require all your time and attention to be effective. Just try to be present in the moments you share and carve out time to be with your children each day. Use both happy and hard situations to connect with them, not just manage them. Your love can fill even the darkest days with warmth and support. Here are a few ideas that might be helpful as you prayerfully consider how to best connect with your children.
Reducing chaos helps us all function better. Organizing our environment makes it easier to calmly interact with one another. Counsel together to set up schedules and regular routines, which can help us tackle what feels overwhelming. Helpful routines break up difficult tasks into smaller chunks that are simpler to accomplish. They create patterns that encourage us to practice consistency.
Use routines to connect with your children. For example, you could read a book together as part of getting ready for bed or play together after dinner. Schedules and routines allow us to feel some control over our lives, which can be comforting amid the uncertainty we face. Plan routines that nourish you—like personal and family prayer, time to connect with one another, calming breaks, gospel study, and sufficient sleep. Include meaningful traditions and activities that reflect what your family values most.
As you try to do all this, remember to be flexible. Schedules and routines should help make things more predictable, not add to your stress.
The Savior said, “Fear not, little children, for you are mine” (Doctrine and Covenants 50:41). When we remember who we are, and whose we are, we have added strength to press forward with faith in Jesus Christ.
Help your children understand that they are sons or daughters of heavenly parents with divine potential and purpose. Testify that the Savior has promised to heal us and restore what is lost as we turn to Him with faith. Understanding these truths can give children hope during the long, bumpy road of growing up.
It’s important that we have enduring relationships with God and Jesus Christ to empower and sustain us along the way. Their love is sure. You can trust Them to listen to you, help you, and keep Their promises to you. Show your children how important your connection with heaven is. Pray together. Read scriptures together. Practice learning and living the gospel of Jesus Christ together.
Before we can connect our children with heaven, we need to connect with them ourselves. We nurture our children when we give them sensitive attention and respond to their needs. This connection buffers stress and helps kids cope, allowing them to learn and grow through the challenges they face. Nourishing communication requires us to tune in, tailor our responses, and take turns.
1. Tune in. Our best connections come when we are tuned in to ourselves, our children, and the Holy Ghost.
Tune in to you. Be open and compassionate with yourself. Notice your thoughts and feelings without judging whether they’re good or bad. Managing your own stress is important because feeling calm will help you better connect with your family. Take time to relax and care for yourself. Do something you enjoy, like going for a walk or listening to music. Remember the blessings in your life. Gratitude helps develop a positive attitude. Reduce your own anxiety or sadness so you don’t pass those feelings on to your kids. And when you do get upset—because everyone does—pause and apply healthy coping strategies that work for you. Take a few deep breaths, think kind thoughts, and look for the silver lining. Children watch how we handle emotions and often mirror what we do. Try to give them good strategies to follow.
Tune in to your children. Carefully watch and listen to each child. Your children’s words and actions give you clues about what they’re thinking and feeling. Be curious about and respectful of their verbal and nonverbal messages. Try to see things from their point of view. When they talk, listen until they are finished, without interrupting. Then warmly reflect back your understanding of what they said and empathize with how they feel. If children believe you really hear and understand them, they will feel more emotionally safe and are more likely to open up and share experiences with you.
Tune in to the Spirit. The Holy Ghost can guide us to understand and meet the needs of our children. He can also help us feel love from Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ as we try our best to raise our children in “light and truth” (Doctrine and Covenants 93:40). When we qualify for the Spirit, we can trust that He will assist us to make the most of opportunities, tackle challenges, and endure with hope and peace. We will be more able to connect with our children as we seek revelation from heaven.
2. Tailor a thoughtful response. After tuning in to your children, you can tailor a response that fits what your children need. Here are some tips to crafting thoughtful responses.
Validate feelings. Help your children name what they’re feeling. Show compassion. When you listen and validate, you reassure your children that you are on their side—whether or not you like the way they’re acting in that particular moment. Can you listen without dismissing their feelings or without pointing out how they’re wrong? Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean you’re caving in to all your children’s demands. It just means you are empathizing, which will make your children more open to your comfort and help.
Kindle curiosity. Help children and youth think about their experiences. Ask questions that encourage them to be curious about themselves and others and to imagine new possibilities. For example, you could ask, “What has worked well for you before?” or “How do you think your friend felt?” or “What are some of the options you have?”
Play and have fun. Playing together provides many opportunities for connection and learning. This can be as simple as playing peekaboo with your baby, imagining with your toddler, or laughing with your teen. For all ages, having fun together relieves tension, encourages optimism, and increases positive communication. Enjoying time with our children helps them develop a positive view of themselves and their world. Interestingly, research suggests that playing with our children strengthens the parts of the brain in charge of things like planning, regulating emotions, and getting along with others.
3. Take turns. We show that we value our children when we wait—patiently—for them to reply or begin a new conversation. By following their lead, we help them develop their thoughts and the confidence to work through things on their own. During your back-and-forth conversations, try to keep repeating the cycle of tuning in and tailoring your responses.
Parenting never goes perfectly. Instead of focusing on being perfect, we can focus on being reliable. As we make and remake connections, we will build a relationship of security and trust that our children can depend on. Even when we don’t come through like we should, we can apologize and try again. Repairing connections is healing for both you and your children and models how to grow from mistakes and failures.
When faced with adversity, how will your children respond? You can have a major influence on building your children’s resilience through trying to create a loving and secure relationship with them. Your warm, sensitive, and supportive interactions will help your children respond with hope and faith to the uncertainties and difficulties in their lives.
So slow down and connect. It’s the most important thing you can do for your children today and every day.