With the ever-changing COVID-19 situation here in Singapore and all around the world, families are bravely facing new challenges as they navigate how to live, work, and play during these unprecedented times.
The cancellation of school extracurricular activities and suspension of enrichment classes means that many parents are looking for fun but productive ways to fill their kids’ days, wondering how to limit screen time, and even preparing themselves to become home tutors, too! Some super-parents are doing all this while also having to juggle working from home.
Deep breath in, deep breath out.
Bramble’s goal has always been to support parents and kids in their communication, and we believe that even though this situation might be overwhelming, there are small steps you can take to ease the strain and find opportunities for emotional connection.
Parents are encouraged to express their own emotions around their kids, to model how negative emotions can be handled when they do surface. This normalises the existence of emotions. In other words, it is fine to express anger if your child does something that makes you angry. The key is expressing your own feelings without passing judgement on your child’s character while doing so. In the event of misbehaviour, focus on their behaviour rather than their character. If parents feel too upset to speak calmly, it is good practice (and good modelling) to promise to return to the conversation when they can be calmer.
- John Gottman, Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child
If you’ve been feeling frustrated, tired, or afraid, whether it’s about stocking up on groceries, working remotely, or rearranging your child’s after-school care, it’s okay to express those feelings to your family. That’s right, even to your kids! These difficult feelings don’t have to only be discussed with other adults. Children have an incredible capacity for empathy and care, and they often surprise us with their thoughtful comments and acts of kindness.
Of course, remember that in expressing these feelings, your objective is not to guilt-trip your kids into obedience, nor is it to try to compete with how they might be feeling. Rather, when you are honest and vulnerable about your own feelings, you’re showing your kids that it’s alright to feel not-so-great, and you’re creating opportunities for deeper mutual understanding.
Your kids might be feeling disappointed, angry, or at the very least, bored due to the cancellation of their usual activities. Even a “welcome” disruption to their schedule (like not having to go to their most dreaded tuition class) is a bump or detour in their routine.
Before you rush to organise alternative activities to keep them busy, take a moment to sit with them and talk about how they’re feeling. Not so that you can fix their schedule, and not so that you can use their boredom against them, but just to listen attentively and show empathy for their emotions.
Affirm how they’re feeling by assuring them that it’s okay to feel sad or to have mixed feelings. It’s alright if they’re both relieved and disappointed that their competition got cancelled! We encourage you to share stories from your own life when you’ve felt the same way they have.
Or any other game, for that matter.
Something we’ve very quickly learned here at Bramble is the power of a simple game of Tic Tac Toe or an arm wrestling match. These are two of the “Take a Step Back” moves found in our app. Kids love to use them, and parents are routinely surprised that such simple activities can so easily bring joy into their conversation!
Even if your child is typically engrossed in a game on their phone or computer, don’t underestimate the power of Hangman, Tic Tac Toe, or a good old-fashioned best-of-3 arm wrestle. Staying at home almost all day with your kids can make it easy for you to neglect carving out intentional quality time to spend with them, so why not start with a game? Remember that your relationship with your kids is much more than just managing their time and keeping them in check. Playing little games isn’t a trivial distraction to pass the time; it's a small gesture that goes a long way in letting your kids know that you cherish their company!
We hope that these quick tips are helpful to you during this tough time. From everyone here at Bramble, we hope that you and your family are keeping safe and well. Share this article with a fellow Mummy or Daddy to remind them that we’re all in this together!