Given the stress associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and how drastically it has altered so many people’s lives, we are all in search of ways to find comfort and support. Parents, themselves, are in a unique situation where they are not only adjusting to changes in their work (or even the loss of work), but also to playing a major role in their children’s education. Parents, children, and adolescents are grappling with how to function as a place of work, school, and family.
Karen Hodges, PsyD is an alumna of AUNE’s Clinical Psychology program and has a private practice in Concord, MA. She offers the following advice for parents on returning to the basics to facilitate their interactions with children in her blog post, Getting Back to the Basics of Parenting During a Pandemic: Paraphrase, Praise, & Validate.
- To paraphrase overtures.
- To praise / acknowledge efforts.
- To validate emotions.
This seemingly simple skill can sometimes feel quite challenging to implement. Adults will have a tendency to ask questions, make inferences, or seek insight. Dr. Hodges reflects, “Just hear the child. Just hear what the child or teen says, and concretely reflect it back. Don’t add to the demands. Don’t psychoanalyze. Simply reflect back what they’re saying.” Such simple acts can help lift a child’s mood because the child feels heard and understood.
We all seek feedback from our environment. Feedback lets us know that we have done something correctly or that we are in connection with others. “Praise is feedback,” Dr. Hodges says. She goes on to say that “Praise lets a person know that what they are doing is pleasing to others. Without it, a person may be lost in a sea of disconnection and isolation, and wonder if her contribution is of value to others.” Dr. Hodges recommends to make praise specific (i.e., “Thank you for clearing your dinner plate. That is really helpful!”).
Because we are all emotional beings, feeling heard and understood can feel incredibly beneficial, even if our circumstances don’t change. It can be challenging to validate a child’s or adolescent’s emotions when it feels so different from how an adult might experience the world. Dr. Hodges explains, “Acceptance of emotions allows one to move through emotions and function more adaptively.”
You can read Karen Hodges full blog post on this topic.