By Chelsea Pfister, MSW – September 15, 2021 –

For the past year and a half, families across the country have been working to settle into an ever-changing sense of what’s being referred to as “the new normal.” While simultaneously juggling workload, home life, and family relationships, parents and families are constantly being presented with new stressors.

These stressors can include changes in routines, changes in economic structure and societal functioning, online schooling demands, and fear of the unknown. As a result, many parents are reporting strains in family relationships, a decrease in tolerance, and an increase in mental health-related concerns in both parents and children.

Below are six helpful tips to consider when fostering positive family connection and communication during challenging times. 

  1. Connect with your loved ones. Focus on what’s important and create a sense of support and connection among family. Taking the time to connect with your child can help establish a stronger relationship and foster more cooperation. Setting aside specified time for a special activity, or even using simple, everyday routines built around dinnertime or bedtime can be helpful in establishing strong family connections.
  2. Let go of pre-pandemic expectations. Recognize that your “best” parenting might look different now than it did prior to the pandemic. That’s okay. Try to avoid setting unrealistic goals for yourself or your children. Don’t think about your parenting as what the media tells you it “should” be; instead, think about what you would like it to be and what steps you can take to get there. 
  3. Listen to your children. Get down to your child’s level and be fully present. Ask open-ended questions to gain further understanding such as, “What is the hardest part about this for you?” Ask permission before sharing your own thoughts. This can instill a sense of empowerment in your child, which can combat the sense of powerlessness they might be struggling with.
  4. Respond to your child’s needs rather than their behaviors. Parents might experience children acting out during these times, particularly when they are experiencing constantly changing schedules. Attempt to look beyond what you’re hearing and/or seeing, and consider what feelings are underlying the behaviors. Work to acknowledge those feelings and support their needs.
  5. Reach out for help. If you or your child is struggling, realize it’s okay to ask for help. Remember you cannot help your child if your own tank is empty. Stressors pile up and it’s normal to become overwhelmed. Reach out to other family members, therapists/counselors, teachers, and/or friends for support.
  6. Practice compassion. Strive to show grace not only to yourself and your own family, but also to other individuals within your community. Everyone has experienced their own losses, changes, and challenges as a result of the pandemic.

Modeling compassion for others and having open conversations with your children and family is a great way to build connections and spread even the smallest amounts of positivity during these trying times. It is now more important than ever for us to support and lean on one another as we continue to acclimate to the changes in the world around us.