Connection and COVID-19

Written by Julie Bisnath, BSW, RSW

One of the most fundamental and intimate human needs is the need for connection and belonging—the feelings and experiences of being valued and of forming meaningful relationships with others.

Here’s how renowned author, and speaker, Dr. Brené Brown defines connection:

“Connection is the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgement; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”

I love this definition so much that I have it written on a post-it note stuck to my bedroom wall, just above my night-side table.

Together, in person, building connection often occurs quite naturally—with a caring touch, a kind word, a shared laugh, an empathetic response, an implied trust, a listening ear, a gesture of support and/or comfort, and a commitment to authenticity and vulnerability.  The drive and desire for connection is what keeps us going and the need for it is as real as any other.  Dr. Brown affirms: “My message is clear—you do not have to do it alone; we were never meant to. We are neurobiologically hardwired to be in connection with other people.”

But what happens when we can’t be together? What happens when we are mandated to be physically distant from one another? How do we maintain, let alone build, connection within our existing relationships? How do we reach out while staying far apart?

Here are some practical ideas for connecting from a distance with the children in your home daycare:

  • Make a phone call but with a purpose: have a quick joke, song, or story on hand. Extend beyond (or skip altogether) the usual small talk which is often difficult for young children.  Connecting with older preschoolers? Call with a riddle and have them call you back with the answer.
  • Send your daycare families a short video of you doing something interesting—an art idea, a sensory play suggestion, reading a favourite story, setting up a new play invitation. If you like, personalize a video for each child.  Jody loves art? Send her a clip of you experimenting with paint.  Sam likes circle time? Sing him a song.  The videos can be short and sweet. The children can then view their video as often as they want or need to.  Invite families to send you short videos in return.
  • Email photos of the daycare children spending time together—what better visual to kickstart connection? Hopefully you will also be in some of the photos.  If not add in a selfie or two.  If you’re feeling creative add a caption or comment for each photo.
  • Call ahead and arrange to leave a personalized voice mail for each child. Again, when the children are missing you, they can ask to hear your voice.
  • With the changing seasons, photograph or video your changing yard—has the snow melted completely? Are there new buds on your trees and shrubs? Is there a bird’s nest in your yard? Is there something growing in your garden? Share your signs of spring with the children. Talk about being together again.  Reminisce about last spring and summer.
  • For the children that live in your neighbourhood and might be out walking by, post a message, a picture, or some artwork in your window for them to see. Use chalk and leave a note or a smile on your driveway.
  • Invite families to include a connection with you as part of the child’s daily routine. A phone call after breakfast or an email note after nap.  Children crave routine and structure.  Having a set time for a “visit” with you can help.
  • If you take a little walk, bring your phone to photograph or film anything interesting that you might see. You can then share this with the children.  The other day, after the rain, I watched a robin take a long (and very thorough!) bath in a puddle.  It was so cute; I wish I had thought to film it.
  • Explore the many online tools for face-to-face meetings: Facebook Messenger, Google Hangouts, Apple FaceTime, Zoom, What’s App, Whereby, etc. Most are easy to set up and allow for various types of online meetings.  Have a conversation, do a demonstration, host a story or circle time, or just have lunch together.  If you are experienced in using these tools take it up a notch—host a virtual event: a dress up tea party, a dance party, a pyjama story time, a guessing game of “What’s That Sound?”, show and tell, etc.  Again, virtual events do not need to be too long or take a lot of time.
  • Reach out to your fellow home child care providers. Find out what they are doing to stay connected to their daycare families and children.  Share ideas and strategies.  Try something new.  Learn from one another.

The inclination and desire to reach out are real and the science is there to back it up—the brain is built upon and thrives within the context of positive relationships. In these unprecedented times, we all need to be creative in our connections with others.  Camera shy? Stage fright? Not exactly tech savvy? Be courageous, take a risk, find joy and share it.

“Laughter, song, and dance create emotional and spiritual connection; they remind us of the one thing that truly matters when we are searching for comfort, celebration, inspiration, or healing: we are not alone.”  Dr. Brené Brown

Stay home. Stay safe. Stay connected.

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