Marriage counsellor and author Gary Chapman, known for his best-seller, ‘The five love languages’ , is famous for his theory that humans express love and experience it in five ways- through physical touch, gifts, words of affirmation, acts of service, and quality time.
As parents we want to see our children healthy and happy every day, but the Covid-19 lockdown has been challenging and for many parents it has been difficult to understand how our children's behaviour and emotions have been affected.
Parent24 spoke to Dr Serahni Symington, a healthcare practitioner specialising as a Registered Counsellor in Durbanville, Cape Town, who explained how parents can use the 5 love languages to help our children through the pandemic.
Dr Symington completed her studies in Psychology and Play Therapy and works with children and families, assisting in various areas of family life and functioning, including emotional challenges.
Here she shares with us ways in which we can improve our communication with our children with some of the 5 love languages:
1. Build a relationship with your child
The most important thing parents need to do if they want to know what does on emotionally with their children, is through building a relationship with their children.
A relationship does not mean undivided attention 24/7 but regular check-ins and times that are scheduled with the child. A parent must try to connect with a child before engaging emotionally or academically.
Dr Symington explains that parents need to tap into their children’s likes and dislikes.
Parents need to figure out what their children’s love language is, she says, as then it becomes easy to notice if there is any change in their behaviour.
She says that this can be done through small things such as knowing your child’s toy preference.
"It is knowing if your child prefers to play with dolls or sand. Knowing how they prefer to play, for example do they prefer a calm environment or energetic play; whether your children like to play outside or indoors; loud or quiet; one-on-one or family play," she explains.
She stresses that parent's should encourage their child to have other relationships with their peers and family members.
"Due to lockdown, you can encourage screen time," she says, adding "children can communicate via Skype, Zoom, WhatsApp or Facebook video calls."
"Some parents even include these calls in the schedule for the day. Doing that also make your child look forward to calling their friends or family," she says.
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2. Quality time with your child
Dr Symington explains that doing activities such as drinking tea together, having casual dates, where you get to spend time communicating improves your relationship with your child.
"Take time before bedtime to talk about the highs and lows of the day, you can also share ideas with your child on how you can improve the days to come. Especially when you are at home with your child most of the time or working from home."
Another idea is to have a plan for when they want to tell you something but can’t say it. Consider making use of a parent post box; conversation jar or whiteboard for topics they want answers to.
3. Take care of yourself as a parent
Your mental state and emotional wellness are important for you, and your child(ren). Be kind to yourself. Find a social resource that could offer you YOU-time or ME-time.
"A stressed and burnt-out parent struggles to be emotionally present because they are exhausted and cannot pour from an empty cup," Dr Symington says.
4. Play! This is a child’s language!
Children develop emotionally through play: they make decisions, play out uncertainties, show you what they are thinking about and questioning, indicate preferences and interests, and enjoy the time which builds their emotional health and wellness.
So allow them to play freely as much as possible.
5. Positive talk in the home environment
"Try to stay positive in front of the children," Dr Symington urges. Use positive words and have positive discussions. Avoid your child having too much exposure to the negative messages of media or even your own anxiety and fear.
How are your children coping through the pandemic? Let us know.
Share your stories and questions with us via email at chatback @ parent24.com. Anonymous contributions are welcome.