August 18, 2020
As the new school year starts, we are sticking to our roots here at Koinonia Family Services. The word koinonia is Greek for relationship, community, or fellowship. Relationship and connection are always at the core of what we do, and we place great importance upon the relationship between resource parents and the youth in their care. With distance learning in effect throughout California, we recognize the new roles and expectations of overseeing more of a child’s education can add strain on that relationship, especially when working with a child who is already affected by trauma and attachment issues.
This begs the question: How do we build attachment and connection with our child(ren) in the midst of this shift in dynamics?
Connection takes effort and time, as well as intentionality; it’s usually built in the normal, everyday moments of life by a well-regulated caregiver.
As the caregiver, we need to be aware of triggers that cause us anxiety (or dysregulation) and have a plan for how we can manage them in times of uncertainty and added stress.
Some factors that may induce anxiety are not understanding how to use the necessary platforms for school, not feeling capable of helping your child with a certain subject, or struggling to keep your child on task. While no one is perfect and we’re bound to have moments of impatience or frustration, it’s important to remember that if we as caregivers are not regulated, we cannot expect our child to be either.
It is the little moments that allow us to connect with our child. When we allow ourselves to take a step back from our everyday duties as caregivers – which now boasts a teacher’s hat – we create space for those moments to happen. For a task-focused caregiver, it can be easy to look at your child’s to-do list for the day and want to cross everything off without fully embracing your child’s personality and capacity to do so.
Keeping connection with our children as the primary goal allows us to fill their physiological needs; this, in turn, paves the way for physical, cognitive, social and emotional development. If we neglect building attachment and connection with our children in this challenging season, we may impose unnecessary barriers to their education as well.
Here are a few simple tips to keep your distance learning days going well.
Start the morning off well
It can be tempting to allow alarm clocks to buzz your child awake, but taking a moment to gently wake up your child allows for connection at the start of the day. A good morning rub on the back with eye contact is one way to provide healthy physical touch. Children of all ages have a need for this type of human connection, yet they may not know how to ask for it. Important: Take into consideration any past physical trauma before using this technique.
During transition from one subject to the next, play your child’s favorite song (age-appropriate, of course). This allows for some cross-lateral body movement and proprioceptive input (sensations from joints, muscles and connective tissues that underlie body awareness). Overall, dancing makes for an energizing, much-needed break from sitting.
When your child is on task it can be tempting to keep going, but don’t put off snack time! Snacking every two hours allows for optimal fuel to tackle assignments and avoid fatigue. Be sure to include protein and limit the amount of sugar. Make an extra plate for yourself to enjoy alongside your child and let them share something they have learned.
Despite all the downsides of distance learning, we can choose to laugh. Our ability to look on the lighter side puts our child at ease and shows them that things will be okay. Make a practice of telling jokes during breaks and see who can come up with the best one. This creates an environment of teamwork; not to mention, laughter releases endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemical.
There are many challenges to navigate during distance learning, yet there is always an opportunity to find connection. It may not be easy, but it’s always worth it. If you are interested in learning more about connection and different strategies for distance learning, see the recommended resources below.
Social Emotional Support
Planning Your School Space