Hands to Hold
As we struggle to navigate parenting in a pandemic, children rely on connection and security.
Many parents are facing the unknown during the COVID-19 pandemic. They worry about the future and the changing needs of their growing children. Parents want to keep their children physically healthy, while they’re also concerned about their overall well-being.
Listening to families over these past months and being a parent myself, I can relate. The good news is parents are not alone, and now more than ever there are resources available to support children and parents during the pandemic.
Even though we cannot predict with certainty what the impact will be for children associated with the pandemic, there are ways to support them and their parents during adversity. All home visitors in the First Born program of the United Way of Santa Fe County are trained in the Circle of Security, a video-based early-intervention program that strengthens parents’ abilities to observe and improve their caregiving skills.
Based on over 30 years of research, the Circle of Security provides a map that facilitates the understanding of why attachment is so important when raising children, and how to have secure attachment relationships. Effective for all age groups, it is particularly useful for working with infants and toddlers in such stressful times as these.
What do children need the most?
Children and adults need connection, a loving reassurance from a caregiver to fill their emotional cup. Parents and caregivers are a safe haven for children. Children rely on their loved ones for soothing and emotional regulation. The same happens with adults: We seek out loved ones because this secure connection brings comfort, especially when facing threat or uncertainty. These close connections help adults to gain more capacity to be with children when they need it most.
The parents are the hands that provide a secure base for children to find comfort, safety and shelter when they are confused or scared. Children need to know that all feelings are OK to feel and express, parents can support children to organize their feelings. Feelings are like clouds in the sky, feelings do not stay forever, and it is a matter of learning how to let them pass by without being controlled by them.
Parents and caregivers are so essential in a child’s emotional life because children are not able to do this by themselves yet. They need an adult to guide them, to be a firm loving presence. Moments when parents are the hands to support the child create the capacity for children to do it for themselves later in life.
Having a kind and firm adult gives children the sense of security that is essential. When children know the parents are in charge in a loving and firm way, it allows children to just be children.
A toddler being more clingy than usual, being extra afraid of strangers, having tantrums for long periods of time or any other unreasonable behavior might be difficult in the moment. In every behavior, there is a need or meaning behind it. The parent’s sensitivity to see the hidden need behind a child’s behavior can bring more clarity about how the parents react to a challenging behavior.
By understanding children’s social and emotional development, parents have better chances to meet their child’s needs. Likewise, having supportive relationships to rely on in times of need, does not solve all the problems, but can be an important resource when overcoming life’s circumstances.
More resources for Santa Fe parents and caregivers:
United Way of Santa Fe County Resource Guide: Information to help parents continue meeting basic needs during the pandemic.
Circle of Security Parenting program: Visit us online to learn more about our local program.
Covid-19 Resources: Links to national and international resources that can help with a variety of concerns related to the pandemic, including childcare, housing, medical information, and activities in English and Spanish, from the Center for the Developing Child at Harvard University.