Communication between caregivers, and between caregivers and children, is critical as we are now all functioning within the same space constantly and continuously. We used to get natural breaks from each other, going to work, running errands, or meeting up with friends - that space has been stripped from our routines. As a result, we need to proactively and concretely turn toward one another and engage in some honest conversations together.
Everyone has their own set of triggers and their own set of comfort connections. Now that we have all been living this new way of life for a few weeks, it is time to dig in with each other and map them out to ensure we are strengthening our connections and not fraying them.
Attached is a template that might be helpful to guide this type of conversation. It is important to go into this conversation addressing some key factors first:
1. This is to help everyone coexist more smoothly by highlighting and addressing components that are getting in the way.
2. This is to build a foundation of understanding together what new expectations are.
3. This is to learn about each other's triggers, not to cast blame on each other.
4. This is to embrace how each other feels comforted and supported.
5. Keep it short and sweet, this is just a touchpoint to an ongoing conversation as the weeks progress!
Anything that ignites feelings of frustration, agitation, sadness, discomfort, stress, anxiety, etc. These can be words or actions, directed at you, or not. In simple terms, situations that generate negative energy for you.
Examples: Hearing the morning alarm go off 4 times after multiple snoozes, books and papers being left on the kitchen table, hearing about the latest news update for the third time that day, finding the coffee pot empty before you even enter the kitchen.
Anything that ignites feelings of security, love, joy, appreciation, humor, validation, etc. Similarly, these can be words or actions, directed at you, or not. In simple terms, situations that generate positive energy for you.
Examples: I need an hour to myself to listen to podcasts I like, my co-worker and I used to take a five minute walk a couple of times a week can we do that, I am about to finish off the coffee should I start more, I can only hear the news once a day or it becomes too much for me.
Triggers and comfort connections will be different for each person and will continue to change as our daily routines change and the greater community and culture changes as well. To thrive we must talk openly with those we are surrounded by. Everyone is coping with this change in community and culture differently while also holding on to different levels of depression, grief, denial and/or anxiety, consciously or not. Choose a day each week to have a quick check-in on how things are going. Making it a common practice keeps it casual and lighthearted, once frustrations build it is harder to not ignite feelings of defensiveness.
Lastly, be sure to end the conversation by celebrating successes! Highlighting moments that the other person made you feel heard, understood, supported and/or loved will help generate the motivation for those actions to continue.
Examples: Thanks for jumping in and starting the dishes while I finished up making lunch, I appreciate you organizing your belongings in the living room because I have a video call in there later today.
Kenna Weber is the Director of Health Services at Chapel Hill-Chauncy Hall School.