700 Children's® – A Blog by Pediatric Experts

Is Being Too Close Physically Making Your Child Emotionally Distant?

Jun 09, 2020
Child and adult sitting on floor stretching

As a result of COVID-19, some families are physically closer than ever before. This may cause conflict for some; however, many more may find themselves distancing emotionally.

Parenting young children is hard under normal circumstances, but can be even harder during this time. While some families have found ways to use this time to strengthen their bond and deepen their attachment to one another, others have found it particularly challenging, especially if their child has behavioral health symptoms or is coping with a previous traumatic experience. 

Here are some tips to help your family emotionally thrive during this uncertain time. 

  1. Help yourself first. How can we help our young children when COVID-19 is impacting our own mental health? For parents, the stress of the pandemic and forced isolation can increase feelings of anxiety or frustration. In some cases, what you’re feeling could be considered a traumatic experience, leaving you unsure how to manage your own well-being and your child’s.

    One thing we know from working with families who have experienced trauma is that triggers can happen when we least expect them. The first step is to recognize any symptoms you have and make a plan to deal with those in a healthy way.

    Ensuring you get enough sleep, eat nutritious foods and schedule in plenty of exercise are places to start. If you are experiencing a change in your mood, your children will react to this. Our children look to us as their guide in how to get through tough situations. They will follow your lead in how you react to the pandemic.

    If you have tried using your usual coping skills and still find that you are struggling, please reach out for help. Your primary care physician is a good place to start. This may also be a great time to find a mental health therapist who can provide you with telehealth counseling sessions. Remember: you have to be healthy yourself to ensure your children are healthy.

  2. Increase your parent/child bond. After you prioritize your own mental health, work on the bond you have with your child.

    This pandemic is one of the hardest situations our children may ever face in their lives.  Spending time with your child is by far the most important tool you have. This time does not have to be long, uninterrupted periods but can be short moments sprinkled throughout the day. Work to notice your child’s cues for needing a few minutes of your time. Use these moments to look and listen with your child.

    Share in their experience of the moment. Praise them for something they have done well or take a few moments to remind them of the plan for the next period of time you have together. Providing an open space for your child to share feelings, giving nurturing touches, working on creative projects together and getting outside to be physically active while enjoying nature are all essential components to bonding with your child.

  3. Recognize when you need help. If you have used all of your ideas for building a stronger relationship with your child and you are still worried about how the pandemic is impacting them, it is time to look more closely at your child’s symptoms.

You know your child best. When you notice a change in their mood and/or behaviors, it is normal to feel concerned. Consult with your pediatrician or seek an assessment from a mental health provider who is trained in understanding the challenges and struggles of your child’s developmental age.

Early childhood mental health clinicians can provide parenting strategies and support, along with family therapy to ensure that a parent and child develop a stronger attachment and more secure bond.  When a child has a loving and secure relationship with their parent, they can cope with hard situations that happen to them. 

It is important to remember that you are doing the best that you can during a very unusual time. Asking for help is one of the best steps you can take for yourself and your child. 

Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s Early Childhood Mental Health Treatment Program specializes in treating children ages 0 to 6. We can assist you in finding a provider who will work with you to enhance the relationship between you and your child. Please call (614) 355-8080 for information on this and other Big Lots Behavioral Health Services programs.

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Katrina Ruege, LPCC-S

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Pediatric News You Can Use From America’s Largest Pediatric Hospital and Research Center

700 Children’s® features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.