- Parents play an essential role in helping their children build social and emotional learning skills.
- Times of stress can provide opportunities to strengthen parent-child relationships.
- Increased connection and social and emotional support are important to counter the stressors of the pandemic.
2020 has been quite a year, and families with young children have felt the effects of COVID-19 shutdowns deeply. From juggling child care to managing virtual schooling, the challenges the pandemic has added can feel overwhelming. Despite the very real sense of fear and anxiety brought on by the pandemic, this time has also demonstrated how families have come together to manage these difficulties through strengthened family bonds and connection.
We have seen, firsthand, the incredible influence that caregivers have in fostering their child’s social and emotional development simply by being there and providing comfort. Connection and social-emotional support are especially important during this time1, and caregivers are well suited to provide this for children. Recent research supports this: evidence shows that even in this time of stress, the pandemic has strengthened many parent-child relationships and feelings of closeness within families.2
Every day, parents help children to manage changes in routine (e.g. uncertainties with return to school/daycare) and grapple with difficult emotions. Whether bonding with kids or helping them understand the community teamwork involved in combating the virus, parents’ actions and conversations are a powerful source of support. Social distancing and wearing masks are huge adjustments for all of us, but framing these actions as ways in which we as a society are taking care of each other and thinking beyond ourselves can help children make sense of these changes and practice kindness toward others.
Here are some simple ways to help boost your child's social and emotional development at home
- Take a few minutes every day to bond with your child one-on-one. Share a story, discuss your emotions, revel in some giggles, or run around and play together. Try to pause other things going on and be fully present in the moment. Quality time is more important than quantity of time.
- Talk to your child about their pandemic-related feelings and discuss strategies to manage them. Acknowledge their emotions and share how you are managing yours. Maybe create a “relaxation corner”: a comfy spot with stuffed animals and books where your child can retreat to process big emotions.
- Provide opportunities for your child to build self-help skills, independence, and transition between activities easily. Support your child’s ability to follow directions and practice persistence in everyday activities. Help them find strategies to switch between tasks and adapt to the many changes in their routine with less stress.
- Use educational technology and media as tools to supplement your child’s social and emotional development. Children’s screentime has likely increased over the pandemic, and parents can help enrich this experience by selecting content that promotes children’s social and emotional learning.
- Practice kindness and gratitude together on behalf of health workers, essential workers, and scientists. Write thank you letters to essential workers and draw pictures for postal workers, emphasizing how wonderful it is that we are all protecting each other by taking precautions.
By providing your child with security and safety you are strengthening their coping skills, independence, and emotional well-being. So regardless of how you are getting through these days as a family, your daily efforts are big wins and deserve acknowledgment and celebration.
- Schlund, J. & Weisberg, R.P. (2020, May 19). Leveraging Social and Emotional Learning to Support Students and Families in the Time of COVID-19. Learning Policy Institute.
- Weissbourd, R., Batanova, M., McIntyre, J., & Torres, E. (2020, June). How the Pandemic is Strengthening Fathers' Relationships with Their Children. Making Caring Common Project, Harvard Graduate School of Education.