Building Family Resilience Through COVID and Beyond
How to Be a Happier and More Resilient Family
Guest post by Dr. Caroline Buzanko, Licensed Psychologist & Clinical Director of Koru Family Psychology
Resilience needs adversity, which COVID has certainly given us. And, resilience needs relationships. COVID has also given us the unique opportunity to spend more time at home with our families. Therefore, we can capitalize on this time to strengthen our connections and resilience.
Our connection with our family is a lifeline and fills our number one human need to belong. Our connections also promote self-esteem, confidence, cooperation, self-regulation, effective communication, coping skills, learning, resilience and overall well-being. Kids who have strong connections with their family demonstrate the greatest success in all areas of life long-term.
You likely already have a strong relationship with your family. However, it is easy to get caught up in stress, especially in these trying times. Therefore, it is important to carve out time every day for positive interactions to strengthen your connections. It does not need to be a full day of excitement and joy… just a few minutes here and there are all it takes. The key is to be fully present without any distractions (including text alerts).
One of the best things you can do to build connection is through effective communication (which is an important lifelong skill anyway). Even more specifically: Listening. Being responsive and supportive is critical whenever your kids have something to say, whether they are chatting about the weather, an annoying teacher, or a friendship fire they had. Acknowledge what they say and show interest by looking at them and moving towards them. Actively listen with a supportive (rather than nagging or advice giving) ear, no matter what they tell you. Doing so builds connection, but helps your kids feel understood and comfortable sharing their feelings without worrying about being lectured to.
Effective communication helps kids learn to also share their feelings, opinions, and ideas while also respecting and listening to others, cooperating, negotiating, and problem solving. They also learn that conflicts can be dealt with effectively without force, aggression, blame, or upset.
Family meetings are great opportunities to connect and communicate. These meetings are a great way to debrief how everyone is doing and can also be used to discuss any issue that comes up so everyone can work together collaboratively and respectfully. Always make family meetings fun, like having a snack and finishing the meeting with a family game.
At my house, we have regular family meetings once a week. We always start off by debriefing the best part of our week. My kids look forward to the meeting because they are given undivided attention to discuss whatever is going on in their lives and then we get to do something fun.
Look for as many ways to connect with your kids as possible daily (e.g., at dinner and/or bedtime), weekly (e.g., baking on the weekend), and monthly (e.g., going swimming). You can do things together as a family, such as going on a day trip once a month or eating dinner together several times a week. But you will also want to spend one-on-one time with each of your kids. Even a quick card game in between calls can make a difference.
Evenings are good times to connect. How we end our day carries on with us through the night, so why not end the day on a positive, loving note? Unwind in the evenings and talk about the highlights of the day or read together. Adding a gratitude ritual, such as talking about the good things that happened in the day, is a wonderful bonding activity. (Gratitude is also a powerful prosocial emotion that builds other important skills like persistence and self-control). Whenever you can, try to give your family hugs – for at least a 10 second count and ideally twelve times a day. Touch is a great way to connect and is also essential for our emotional well-being.
Also find ways to make your kids feel like they are valued and have something to offer the family, which is an important ingredient to belonging. Ask for their opinion, let them be involved in making important decisions, and actively listen to what they have to say. Follow along with their input at least some of the time. (There is nothing worse than being asked for your opinion only to have it negated.)
There are lots of ways you can build your connections moment by moment. Try different things and find what works best for you and your family. Strengthening these connections bit by bit today helps strengthen our resilience in the days to come. What can you do today to start strengthening those bonds?
Looking for more ideas for family resilience?
Check out my free 68 page eBook, How to Be Happier and More Resilient After COVID, which is packed with tips for success, over 2 dozen activities and over 50 pages of printables.
Use this unique time to build a happier, more resilient family. Get your comprehensive eBook, which highlights the secret to resilience during these trying times and numerous strategies to help you be a happier, more resilient family than ever before. Download the eBook HERE
Dr. Caroline Buzanko is a licensed psychologist and clinical director of Koru Family Psychology. She has worked with children and their families for over 20 years, with a focus on maximizing connection, confidence, and resilience. She facilitates groups and workshops across North America to promote health and well-being among families and is an Adjunct Assistant Professor at the University of Calgary. For more information visit: http://drcarolinebuzanko.com/
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