Practical Parenting during a Pandemic

There is a lot of advice for parents and caregivers being shared in these extraordinary times. If you or your client group are looking for something simple, practical, and do-able, something which will not take hours to read, and something that is drawn from a large-scale implementation project (i.e. it has been tested), why not consider our resource? Includes practical strategies, drawn from science, and applied in homes.

A straightforward guide to keeping things on track in the home during tough times. Includes printable worksheets – see preview below. 18pp

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A little extra emotional connectedness

Emotional connectedness is a by-product of interaction. When you are interacting with a person you are likely to feel an ‘echo’ of their emotion. This is a form of empathy that is instinctive and, with few exceptions, we all have the capacity to experience this instinctive empathy.

The ‘echo’ a parent feels of their child’s emotion played an important role in supporting the child’s emotional development, including:

  • the child’s emotional awareness – their own and the emotions of others
  • the child’s capacity to regulate their emotions
  • the child’s capacity to regulate their emotions in consideration of others.

Emotional connectedness is important!

Co-regulation refers to a form of emotional connectedness whereby you express in your tone of voice, facial expressions, and gestures your ‘echo’ of an emotion that is congruent with that of the child, and return to calm. Co-regulation is instrumental in supporting children to develop the capacity to self-regulate during their formative years as they ‘follow’ the adult back to calm via the established emotional connection. As the child returns to calm, we feel calm too. Hence, the term ‘co-regulation’.

Emotional connectedness and co-regulation support experiences for the child:

  • that their experience is important
  • that their caregiver is accessible to them
  • that their caregiver understands them
  • that their caregiver can be relied upon as a source of comfort and restoration of feelings of wellbeing.

Emotional connectedness and co-regulation are reassuring.

When emotionally connecting with a child intentionally it is important to be aware of the dose. Too much can heighten the child’s emotions. Rather, match their level or, in the case of anxiety, anger and distress, briefly express a toned-down version of the emotion (thus allowing an emotional connection to be made) before returning to calm.

More generally, play and other activities done with the child support emotional connection. As referred to above, emotional connectedness is a by-product of interaction. So play with the child or children in your care, allow yourself to feel what they feel, and regularly return to calm. In doing so you are supporting them to experience emotions as part of the richness of life and not something to be avoided due to their potential to overwhelm. You are also supporting smaller emotions more generally and the child’s own capacity to regulate themselves.

To assist you in this endeavour I have prepared the resource below. You can access a PDF here. Emotional connectedness is the ‘E in the CARE Model. To read more about the CARE Model I would refer you to A Short Introduction to Attachment and Attachment Disorder. This book is particularly suited to those who are caring for children who are recovering from significant relationship trauma. For a general audience (as well as foster carers, kinship carers, adoptive parents, social care workers, youth workers, social workers) I will be releasing a short handbook comprising the CARE resources I have been releasing and some further explanation very shortly.

To purchase A Short Introduction to Attachment and Attachment Disorder (Second Edition), and support this site, please consider doing so from one of the Amazon sites below by clicking on the caption in the bottom of each image:

A straightforward guide to keeping things on track in the home during tough times. Includes printable worksheets – see preview below. 18pp

Pay/donate what you want:

 

Or, download here.

Preview:

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One thing that reduces a childs clinginess during a coronavirus lockdown

As the Coronavirus (COVID19) continues to impact how we go about our lives, a common concern is how parents will work from home or perform other daily tasks when the children cannot attend school or childcare. This concern is particularly salient as, due to their sensitivity to the emotions of others and their own knowledge and experience of the Cononavirus, children (and young people) are likely to experience a heightened proneness to anxiety at this time.

Most children, when they are anxious, will seek comfort and support from, and closeness to, their parents or other adult caregivers. This proximity-seeking behaviour is meant to relieve stress and restore feelings of wellbeing for the child. During times of heightened anxiety most children will naturally engage in increased proximity-seeking behaviour.

Unfortunately, a number of complications that can arise when children engage in increased proximity-seeking to relieve their anxiety and restore feelings of wellbeing:

  1. One complication is that the children can be so preoccupied with attaining and maintaining proximity with a caregiving adult that the adult simply cannot always respond to the child. This is especially salient when a single adult is caring for more than one anxious child.
  2. Another complication is that a child’s preoccupation with attaining and maintaining proximity to a caregiving adult can be so pronounced that, notwithstanding their best intentions, the adult feels overwhelmed and withdraws from time to time in order to restore their own equilibrium.
  3. A further complication is that, due to their own heightened state arising from anxiety about the coronavirus and the child’s proximity-seeking behaviour, adult caregivers can become less effective at relieving a child’s anxiety.

The net result is that the child experiences the adult as inconsistently available to them as a source of needs provision, where the need is closeness and restoration of feelings of wellbeing.

In and of itself, inconsistency is stressful for children, further heightening their need for a proximate adult. Inconsistent responsiveness typically results in a preoccupation with needs provision and a high rate of, and great persistence in, behaviours to secure access to needs provision; in this instance, the attention and responsiveness of a caregiving adult.

This can leave adult caregivers feeling totally overwhelmed and with a sense that they are being controlled and regulated by the now ‘overly demanding child’.

So, how does the adult caregiver reassure the child that they are accessible to them, thereby reducing the child’s anxiety and excessive proximity-seeking?

The short answer is to enrich the child’s experience of the accessibility of the caregiving adult. To do this, the caregiving adult must check-in with the child without the child doing anything to achieve proximity.

The challenge here is that these are the times when the adult is hungrily trying to attend to all the tasks that need attending to and are being impacted by the anxious child’s heightened need for attention. However, if the caregiving adult can initiate contact with the child proactively the child has the experience that their caregiver is thinking of them and is accessible to them without them having to do anything to make it so. Implemented on a regular/consistent basis, this one aspect of caregiving can have the effect of reducing excessive proximity-seeking and promoting acceptance of temporary separations.

After all, this is how the child learnt in the first place that their adult caregivers were accessible to them without the child having to go to great lengths to make it so. That is, during infancy their caregivers attended to them whether the child was crying or quiet.

So, how to put this into place? Well, I recently released a resource to assist parents and caregivers of children to develop a plan to enrich a child’s experience of their accessibility. You can view the resource below and access a PDF here.

For more information about enriching accessibility, keep an eye out for a further resource I will be releasing in the coming days. Please also keep an eye out for a resource I will be releasing in relation to self-care.

Good luck, and do leave a comment with any suggestions about other topics you might like me to address.

A straightforward guide to keeping things on track in the home during tough times. Includes printable worksheets – see preview below. 18pp

Pay/donate what you want:

 

Or, download here.

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Promoting Children’s Resilience: What you need to know!

In these extraordinary times I have noticed that there has been increased interest in this article, written some years ago, but still containing relevant information. What I would add is the role of CARE, which extends what I refer to in this article as aspects of parenting and caregiving that foster resilience (Accessibility, Sensitive Responsiveness, Affective Attunement). If you have been a recent visitor to this site you will have seen that I have been releasing resources about how to implement CARE in support of children’s wellbeing and adjustment in these difficult times. I hope you find the right information for your circumstances on this site and am happy to receive suggestions in the comments section about any topics you would like me to cover.

If you find this article useful I would be really grateful of you consider purchasing my book via one of the Amazon online stores below.

A straightforward guide to keeping things on track in the home during tough times. Includes printable worksheets – see preview below. 18pp

Pay/donate what you want:

 

Or, download here.

Preview:

Attachment and Resilience

On a sunny autumn day David, who was four years of age, travelled with his parents to a local park for a picnic. Upon their arrival, David and his parents observed a scene replete with the recreational delights of lush grass, shady trees, warm open spaces and . . . . .  an adventure playground. What happened next provides an insight into how David is likely to cope with adversity, and recover from it, throughout his life.  In short, what happened next provides an insight into David’s resilience.

Adversity is a feature of the life of every child. It is present when a child is learning a new skill, on their first day of school, when they are negotiating conflicts and when their ambition exceeds their ability. Some children demonstrate persistence in the face of adverse conditions, whereas others shy away from adversity. Those who persist in their endeavours…

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A little extra needs provision

Hello again. I am taking my own advice and maintaining a consistent routine as much as possible during these extraordinary times by posting content that I hope will prove to be useful to caregivers of children and young people.

If you have appreciated receiving the resources I have released thus far, keep an eye out for an expanded resource that I will be releasing in the next week or so. The expanded resource will include more detailed information about the content of the infographics and how to use them in support of providing a little extra CARE during these troubled times.

Today’s resource is the second part of the Responsive dimension in the CARE Model. Proactive needs provision is so important!. When they were babies, it was how our children and young people learnt that they could rely on us to keep them safe and respond to their needs. In doing so, we provided our children with the profound reassurance that allowed them to switch their focus to exploring and learning about their world, developing their skills and experiencing mastery along the way. It was an important way in which we fostered their capacity to be resilient and self-reliant.

When children and young people become anxious they can show some signs of emotional and behavioural regression, such that they become less independent and more demanding. They may seem a little selfish. At such times they need a little extra needs provision by you to reassure them that it is OK, their needs are still important and you are here to help!

If you wish to download a PDF of this resource, please click here.

The CARE Model is explained in more detail in A Short Introduction to Attachment and Attachment Disorder (Second Edition). To purchase the book, and support this site, please consider doing so from one of the sites below by clicking on the caption:

A straightforward guide to keeping things on track in the home during tough times. Includes printable worksheets – see preview below. 18pp

Pay/donate what you want:

 

Or, download here.

Preview:

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A little extra understanding in tough times

In this, the fourth in a series of posts about resources I am distributing to help caregivers of children during these extraordinary times, I highlight the importance for children and young people of being heard and understood. Science shows that feeling heard and understood by a trusted adult is like a psychological vaccine against mental health problems and behaviour problems. Feeling heard and understood supports wellbeing and a confident approach to life and relationships. Feeling heard and understood reassures a child or young person that they can depend on adults in a caregiving role. Feeling heard and understood supports ideas that their experiences are real, that their experience matters, and that they matter.

In tough times, we cannot always make the problem go away, but engaging with understanding offers a powerful experience of connection that supports wellbeing and resilience.

In the first of two related infographics below, I outline a process for enriching a child or young person’s experience of being heard and understood. In the second resource, I describe a variation of the Pick-up-Sticks Game that can be utilised to support experiences of being heard and understood. If you wish to download a PDF of these resources, click here.

The CARE Model is explained in more detail in A Short Introduction to Attachment and Attachment Disorder (Second Edition). To purchase the book, and support this site, please consider doing so from one of the sites below by clicking on the caption:

A straightforward guide to keeping things on track in the home during tough times. Includes printable worksheets – see preview below. 18pp

Pay/donate what you want:

 

Or, download here.

Preview:

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A little extra Accessibility in tough times

Children first learn that we are accessible to them during infancy when we attend to them whether they are crying or quiet.

Attending to infants whether they are crying or quiet provides experiences of their worth, of our proximity and responsiveness, and of their safety in the world. In time, these experiences support emerging beliefs about themselves, others, and their world that influence a child’s approach to life and relationships. I refer to these beliefs as attachment representations (Pearce, 2016). They are otherwise referred to in the child development and psychology literature as attachment working models or schema. Attending to infants whether they are crying or quiet is also profoundly reassuring, such that they maintain a state of wellbeing and explore their world unhindered by the debilitating and restricting effects of anxiety. Attending to infants whether they are crying or quiet supports learning that adults in a caregiving role can be relied upon to attend to them without having to control and regulate the proximity of adults to make it so.

Accessibility supports a confident approach to life and relationships, exploration, and attainment of developmental milestones.

In tough times, children and young people can experience a heightened need for the profound experience of reassurance that is afforded to them by the presence of an accessible (and responsive) adult. To this end, I developed the infographic below (the third in a series) to provide direction to adults in a caregiving role about how to enrich the experience of their accessibility for children and young people in their care. You can access a PDF of the infographic here.

Please do not hesitate to get in touch with me if there is a specific topic you would like me to consider. Wishing you all good health and happiness during these tough times.

The CARE Model is explained in more detail in A Short Introduction to Attachment and Attachment Disorder (Second Edition). To purchase the book, and support this site, please consider doing so from one of the sites below by clicking on the caption:

A straightforward guide to keeping things on track in the home during tough times. Includes printable worksheets – see preview below. 18pp

Pay/donate what you want:

 

Or, download here.

Preview:

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It is not just about toilet paper

In recent times much attention has been directed towards the so-called ‘panic buying’ of staples, including toilet paper and other hygeine products.

The Prime Minister of Australia has told the population to “stop it”, by which he meant for people to stop buying and hoarding staples in anticipation of a lack of supply. He has told us that there is enough to go around, presumably if we all think and act rationally in relation to accessing staples.

The South Australian government has moved to deregulate shopping hours in an apparent gesture to reassure shoppers that they can access staples anytime.

The problem is that neither strategy addresses the fact that for too many people, when you walk into the shopping centre to buy staples, such as toilet paper, there is none there!

So-called ‘panic buying’ and hoarding of staples arises in the contexts of fear and (new) learning. As a fear response, it is not (entirely) rational, and appealing to people be rational is unlikely to have sufficient impact to address them problem. Shaming them, such as referring to the behaviour as ‘un-Australian’, is only likely to compound fear and distress, and exacerbate the problem. As a learning response, ‘panic buying’ arises in the context of (new) learning that you cannot always rely on being able to access what you need.

When access to needs provision is inconsistent a preoccupation arises. Regardless of their prior learning, people tend to engage in behaviours that increase their chances of their needs being met, such as through ‘panic buying’. This might be likened to a basic human instinct. Yes, we can override this instinct with reason, but it is hard to be reasonable when we are anxious.

Money is another staple, and providing access to money through ‘stimulus packages’ is a worthy endeavour, so long as everyone gets access to stimulus money. In the current climate, access to money is, conceivably, the next great preoccupation.

Whether it was meant or not, the model used in providing stimulus money is a potentially helpful methodology for addressing a preoccupation with accessibility to needs provision, and associated compulsive behaviour (i.e. ‘panic buying’) to reassure oneself about access. If governments in Australia and around the world want to temper so-called ‘panic-buying’ and associated fear and distress, they need to turn their minds to providing basic staples in a reliable manner.

Imagine, a stimulus package that delivers toilet paper to every household in Australia . . ..

A final thought. We know that people tend to ‘see’ that which is in their thoughts. This is referred to in the psychology literature as ‘selective attention bias’ or ‘inattentional blindness’. It can also be shown that without prompting to do otherwise people tend to focus on what is wrong rather than what is right. In evidence of this, take moment to look at the equations below and notice what stands out for you.

Our ‘natural tendency’ to notice what is wrong (4+4 does not equal 9) means that we tend to inflate the magnitude of problems in our own minds by overlooking that which is right. In the current coronavirus crisis, there is much in the news that is anxiety evoking (or is this my own selective attention bias at work?) and our tendency to selectively attend to that which is a problem can have the effect of magnifying our anxiety. If you contrast this with the news coverage of the recent bushfire emergency there was much attention given in the media to the heroism of the fire fighters and the endeavours by the community to support them. There was greater balance to the story. Though there was anxiety, people were also reassured that brave people were putting their lives on the line to tackle a great threat to lives and livelihood.

There are many clever people trying to develop a vaccine and other treatments for the coronavirus (COVID 19). It would help if we knew more about what they are doing. The media have a powerful role to play, as do the government. In doing so, there may be progress towards more than one cure.

In the meantime, try to maintain as many routines as you can. Keep track of doing so. In uncertain times, tuning into the predictable elements of life can be an effective buffer against anxiety.

A straightforward guide to keeping things on track in the home during tough times. Includes printable worksheets – see preview below. 18pp

Pay/donate what you want:

 

Or, download here.

Preview:

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A little extra consistency in tough times

We are experiencing remarkable times. The Coronavirus (COVID 19) has brought with it a great deal of uncertainty, for all of us. Uncertainty is stressful. Certainty allows us to predict what will happen, when it will happen, and how it will happen. Predictability allows us to get on with what we are doing unhindered by uncertainty about what lies ahead. When the road ahead is difficult, predictability allows for preparation.

Consistency, such as in the routines we maintain in everyday life, supports experiences of predictability. Consistency is reassuring.

It has long been accepted that children need consistency. This is, in part, because consistency is optimal for learning about how the world works and how to influence the world. This perception of influence is a powerful source of reassurance. The importance of consistency is also in its effect on children’s nervous system. Consistency is calming. Consistency supports a confident approach to life and relationships. Consistency supports successful endeavour and a perception of competence.

Consistency acts as a buffer against stress and uncertainty in troubled times. This is true of all of us. We need to maintain what routines we can, for our own wellbeing. Our wellbeing will ‘rub-off’ on the children and young people in our care.

Nevertheless, children (and young people) will benefit from a little extra consistency in these troubled times. In support of parenting and caregiving endeavours in this regard, I have prepared the infographic below. You can download a PDF version here.

I would encourage you all to maintain as many of your typical routines as you can. I would also encourage you to offer the child or children (and young people) in your care a little extra consistency. It is important to be aware of what you already do that helps, as well of the signs that your that you are making an impact. I explain this further in an article about self-care here. I wish you well in your endeavours and look forward to sharing more guidance with you, and brighter times ahead!

The CARE Model is explained in more detail in A Short Introduction to Attachment and Attachment Disorder (Second Edition). To purchase the book, and support this site, please consider doing so from one of the sites below by clicking on the caption:

A straightforward guide to keeping things on track in the home during tough times. Includes printable worksheets – see preview below. 18pp

Pay/donate what you want:

 

Or, download here.

Preview:

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A little extra CARE in tough times

Hi everyone. In a follow-up to yesterday’s post, I thought I would provide a complementary infographic that acknowledges that in tough times children benefit from a little extra CARE also. This seems most apt in this most troubling of times. I intend to post regularly through this period and provide further practical resources and guidance for parents and caregivers of children. I am happy to receive feedback and suggestions about what readers of this blog might like me to address. For now, please find an updated resource below, a PDF of which can be downloaded here.

The CARE Model is explained in more detail in A Short Introduction to Attachment and Attachment Disorder (Second Edition). To purchase the book, and support this site, please consider doing so from one of the sites below by clicking on the caption:

A straightforward guide to keeping things on track in the home during tough times. Includes printable worksheets – see preview below. 18pp

Pay/donate what you want:

 

Or, download here.

Preview:

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