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GRAPHICS BY ALEXANDRA MARKWELL, UNDERGRADUATE STUDENT, YORK UNIVERSITY

“Our child is struggling emotionally and behaviourally; how can we help?” In answer to this question, child psychologist Heather Prime, assistant professor at York University, shares some advice:

1) Parenting from the same playbook

It’s important that parents and in-home caregivers support, rather than undermine, each other’s parenting decisions. That’s why Dr. Prime likes to get parents to think about how to better manage conflict and disagreements within their relationships, which can change the dynamics of the household for the better.

2) Emotion coaching

For family wellness, the mental health of every family member is important. Talking about feelings – and accepting them as they come up, even when you don’t agree – can create an atmosphere of empathy and understanding. Whether you’re angry, sad or fearful, there’s no wrong way to feel, especially in a pandemic. Dr. Prime suggests acknowledging your emotions can help you learn to cope and self-regulate – important life-skills for enhancing your well-being.

3) Adapting rules and routines

During the pandemic, families had to adapt to a new normal and change many of their ways of doing things, from daily activities to family celebrations. Those working from home, for example, had to set boundaries for establishing a place or time for work. When we let go of old rules and routines, we need to establish new structures for the family. This may require getting creative and managing challenges as they come up. Dr. Prime suggests aiming for a balance between not holding on too tightly to how things used to be without heading towards chaos. She also recommends checking in regularly with each other to find out how these changes are working (or not) for the family.

4) Enjoying each other’s company

Families need to continue finding novel and exciting ways to spend time together, such as planning family activities they enjoy, says Dr. Prime. Being able to make new pleasant memories as a family goes a long way towards nourishing us, especially during times of stress and uncertainty.


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