Q&A YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED: GRIEF, CONNECTION & MENTAL HEALTH WITH TEENS, BONDING W/ BABIES
I am so happy you have found the 3D Parent Podcast. My name is Beaven Walters, and I am your host. Before I created the 3D Parent, I spent over 10 years teaching in various educational settings. I have always had a passion for working with children. After my first child was born, and not too long after my second, I discovered I was truly passionate about parenting in a way that worked for my children. So, I became a certified parent coach to help not only myself, but other parents who were struggling through a tough season in parenting just like me.
This podcast was created with the parent in mind. I am going to be covering the 3D Parent method and systems, so you can gain tangible tools to help you bring dignity, direction and deep connection to your family dynamic. My goal is to help you become the most confident parent you can be, and feel empowered in your parenting choices.
THINGS YOU WILL LEARN IN EP. 31: Q&A YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED: GRIEF, CONNECTION & MENTAL HEALTH WITH TEENS, BONDING W/ BABIES
[03:05] The first question that we have is about grief. Erin asks, “How do you navigate grief when a loved one dies who you weren’t able to see or visit because of the stay-at-home orders?” We’re going to approach this from the perspective of how you navigate addressing grief in your children. Grief is universal and people of all ages need to know how to process it. Normally, when we know that someone is going to pass, we can visit them, say our final goodbyes and be there for the bereaved loved ones. With our situation right now, those things aren’t possible. But first and foremost, it’s really important to normalize the experience of grief.
[05:20] One important message to spread to your children is that it’s okay if they don’t really feel grief right away. There are instances when our brain takes time to make space for sadness to creep in, and this can happen when you least expect it. It may take days, months, or even years to experience deep grief after the loss of a loved one. There will also be plenty of triggers that will remind you of your lost loved one. That’s a normal part of grief, so allow yourself - and your child - to experience these feelings. Do not try to soften the experience of sadness for you or your child. Just be there for them as you both try to navigate your feelings.
[06:23] It is also helpful to remind our children that we’re always connected to the ones we love. Here, the beauty of building deep and strong attachments in your relationships become evident. Let your kids know that these connections transcend even death. Whether or not your family has a religious tradition that includes heaven or the afterlife, you can reinforce the power of human connection.
[09:51] To recap the ways you can help your child navigate grief: first, normalize it. Then, explain how grief works. Afterward, find ways to help your kid tap into the connection that’s established with your loved one who’s passed on, such as by writing letters to their lost loved one.
[10:11] The next question comes from Samantha, another one of our listeners. She says, “I would love to have you focus on teen connection and mental health during this time.” Our approach to this topic will focus on connecting with our teens and caring for their mental health during this unusual time. First, I will mention some ideas I’ve talked about on earlier episodes of The 3D Parent Podcast, namely:
How to connect with your teen when the connection between you doesn’t feel as strong
New ways to spend time with your teen now that they’ve transitioned out of childhood
[13:27] One way you can connect more deeply with your teen is to engage in a teenage form of “play.” This can involve singing, writing songs, doodling and even journaling. If your teen is doing these endeavors alone, that’s perfectly fine. But try to occasionally spend time with your teen in their room compared to always asking them to spend time in the main family areas.
[14:47] Finding ways to engage with your teen based on their interests could also be a great way to help care for their mental health. Right now, you might see your teen relying on a lot of distractions like screens, which can sometimes cause problems in the family. It’s important not to villainize and make screen time the issue. If your kid is spending a lot of time on screen right now, it’s not the screen's fault. It’s just indicating that your child is having issues with something else in their own life. So, take time to talk to your child about the negative effects of excessive screen time and encourage them to virtually connect with friends.
[17:00] It’s also helpful to encourage your child to talk about what they intend to do when we can all go out again. Some questions to ask include: “What do you want to do this summer? What are your plans for next year?” Help your teen be future-focused. In terms of mental health, one sign of depression can be when a person is unable to focus on the future or find future activities to feel excited about. So this conversation can let you observe warning signs that your child may be falling into a level of depression. And remember that as parents, it’s our job to seek out connection with our children, not theirs.
[19:08] The last question we’re going to answer today comes from Lauren who asks, “As a mom of an infant, I’d love some basic thoughts on how I can set myself up for success as we head toward toddler time.” In the first year of your child’s life, the most important thing you should be doing is building a foundation of a secure attachment with your baby. Dr. Gordon Neufeld, renowned developmental psychologist and author, labels this stage as “proximity” and bonding is established through the senses. So you should focus on bonding activities like establishing eye contact and holding your baby. You should also be constantly responding to your baby’s cues and learning what needs different cries are communicating.
[21:18] Meanwhile, Dr. Dan Siegel, a writer and clinical psychiatrist, mentioned in his book The Whole Brain Child that the key to a secure attachment with your baby is ensuring that they feel the four S’s: seen, safe, secure, soothed. There are times when we can’t immediately address our child’s needs, but focus on consistency. This lets your child know that you will meet their needs, which then leads to you earning their trust and building that secure attachment.
[24:17] Other ways where you can bond with your infant through the senses and gentle touch include giving massages, taking baths together, playing games filled with facial expressions and eye contact. You need to get to know each other and, eventually, learn how to decode your baby’s cues. Learning your baby’s cues makes it easier for you to respond with consistency and achieve the goal of building a secure attachment with your child.
QUOTES FROM Q&A YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED: GRIEF, CONNECTION & MENTAL HEALTH WITH TEENS, BONDING W/ BABIES
"Something you can encourage your children to do that might be helpful [in the grieving] process is to have your child write a letter to their loved one who's passed away. In this letter, they can write all the things that they might have said to them in a final goodbye under normal circumstances."
“Remember that your relationship is the most important aspect of anything you have to do with your child. So don't let school, chores, or frustrating behaviors become more important than your relationship with your kid.”
"You can draw an analogy from that of a butterfly when dealing with your teen in his adolescent period. Teens are very much cocooning by this time. They're becoming who they are. They're discovering their own beliefs, who they are as independent creatures, separate from us, and sometimes they feel a need to kind of go into their cocoon a little bit, to isolate a bit, to try and discover who they are or explore new interests."
"Remember that our teenage children need to feel that they are dear and loved and cherished by us. Sometimes our children can be prickly like a porcupine. It's not as easy to hug a porcupine when you're getting a lot of negative energy."
"Your child can have so many needs and they are sending out these bids for connection all day long. It can be overwhelming, particularly if you have a child or a baby who's maybe a bit more intense. Know that the goal here is to meet those bids for connection and address your child’s needs for attention as often as you can."
EPISODES TO FURTHER THE DISCUSSION:
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