by Rabbi Levi Milecki
The onset of COVID-19 has upended our lives and has brought about unprecedented financial and health challenges. Stress levels are high and the future for many is uncertain. We cannot begin to understand G-d’s reasoning for bringing about this pandemic, and we never will.
When faced with difficulties, however, the Jewish way has always been to find light in the darkness.
COVID-19 is no different. Many of us live distracted lives. We are practically addicted to technology, constantly checking our smartphones and devices for new messages and notifications, and a work-life balance is virtually non-existent. This unfortunate reality causes us to not be present for our children who so very much need us.
With our children at home, we have been presented with an extraordinary opportunity to enhance our relationships with our children, assisting them to develop strong social and emotional skills.
I challenge parents to explore what I believe to be the ‘essential five’ tools every parent can use to help their children feel safe and connected, laying the foundation for a joyful and meaningful life.
- Play Games: One of the most powerful ways to connect with your child is through the playing of games. Whether simple games such as Match-It and Snakes and Ladders or more complicated games including chess and monopoly, games provide an excellent opportunity for your child to experience and learn to manage their emotions in a safe environment. The excitement of winning, the disappointment of loss, and even choosing who goes first, are all essential life-skills. Play with your child for just 5 minutes a day and help him or her grow their interpersonal skills and their ability to self-regulate.
- Be Present: Children are bubbling with thoughts and ideas and deeply crave connection. Make time each day for your child and allow him or her to talk about their feelings. Put away your smartphone and give your child your full attention. Let you child look into your eyes and feel your presence, whilst you listen non-judgementally as they share their joys and fears.
- Praise: Phrases such as ‘Well done!’ and ‘I am so proud of you!’ are used regularly by parents to praise their children. Though important and well-meaning, they minimally assist children to develop and further improve their efforts and behaviour. Rather use ‘Performance Based-Praise’. Be specific and link your child’s behaviour to their achievement and effort. For example, instead of “I’m so proud of you for making your bed,” take it further and say, “I loved how you smoothed out all the creases in the blanket when you made your bed this morning”. Your child will know exactly what makes you happy and will make an extra effort to continue do demonstrate the behaviour.
- Establish Routines: “Are we there yet?” is the regular refrain said by every child on every car trip. Why is this? Children feel safe when they know what to expect. With a limited ability to gauge how far they are from their destination, they ask this question over and over again, in an attempt to create a level of certainty. The morning rush, mealtimes and bedtime are hectic times in many homes. Establishing routines around these important parts of the day will assist your child to feel a sense of control and calm throughout the day.
- Share stories: Stories are an incredibly effective way to impart important values to your child. A story about positive character traits and the importance of Torah and mitzvos can make an indelible impression on the mind and soul of a child that can last a lifetime. Whether at the dinner table, at bedtime or at the Shabbos meal, share your favourite Jewish stories and pass on our ancient traditions to your child and family.
Wishing all parents everywhere continued success, bracha and good health!