Building Loving Relationships from Messy Stress

As I sat down to write this blog, I couldn’t help but think of a few moments I experienced in 2020. I know just mentioning that year can be challenging. However, I promise these stories are going to be uplifting. It was last November that I was out for a hike. As I walked along the trail, I noticed a family coming my way. This family included a precious infant nestled against the back of their parent being carried up a hill. I quickly stepped to the side and looped my mask across my ears to follow COVID prevention protocol. As I stood 6 feet away, the family passed by, and the baby looked right at me. I immediately started making funny faces as the baby grinned from ear-to-ear. Then it dawned on me. I’m wearing a mask. How could this baby see my joyous expressions? My husband reassured me that despite my covered face, my eyes were smiling at the infant.

Not long after this sweet interaction, I was out for a run when I stopped for an energetic toddler. They were chasing after their ball as their curls bounced atop their head. This little one also looked my way, and of course, my dimples beamed as I waved my hand. I had distanced myself from this kiddo, but they yearned for connection and started running my way. I wanted to jog right toward this toddler and continue to engage in this wonderful moment. However, times are different now, and the parent swooped in and grabbed the child before they could get too close. Once everyone stood within a safe distance, I continued to converse with the little one from far away as they smiled and shouted one-word sentences toward me.

The year 2020 was a tough one, yet I cherish these interactions when I reflect on these moments. I realize these kiddos did more than brighten a dark year. They gave me hope. In the midst of 2020, an infant still learned how to read joyous facial cues even though many of their interactions were shared with people wearing masks. A toddler still managed to find joy in their playful explorations despite their parent’s need to act with warranted caution and keep them at a far-away distance from others.

Infants and toddlers can’t comprehend the stressors that the year 2020 brought. However, they can still tune in to their parents’ emotions and be affected by stress.2   So, how are these children still thriving in this stressful situation our world continues to battle each day?

I think the answer is resilience. You’re probably quite familiar with the idea of resilience as a home visitor. It’s an individual’s ability to bounce back in times of stress and keep pushing on.3  Before resilience can begin to form, there has to be a secure attachment between a parent and child or another loving adult and child.6  As parents respond to their kids with nurturing care, this unique attachment or close connection begins to develop.1

As this beautiful bond continues to strengthen, parents make mistakes, but these messy moments create opportunities for kids to build resilience. This is because when parents recognize a disconnection with their child, and they reconnect with them, children are reminded that their parents aren’t perfect. However, it becomes clear to kids that their parents know how to show their love. Through these reconnections, children learn how to resolve conflict and bounce back from tough times.4,5,6  

Knowing this research has helped me see how kids have continued to be resilient even during a pandemic. Many of the parents you visit probably wish they could make COVID just go away, but we know it’s not that simple. Despite the stress and precautions families are managing, parents still have opportunities to show their love. Remind parents that they don’t have to be perfect. No person can be expected to handle this pandemic without challenges. However, you can reassure parents that as long as they reconnect with their kids, their children will know they’re loved.In fact, they’ll grow up to be quite resilient, meaning no matter what curveball this world throws them, they’ll still have the ability to love and nurture their own children.3

References

1. Government of the Province of British Columbia. (2019). Baby’s best chance: Parents’ handbook of pregnancy and baby care. HealthLinkBC. https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/hlbc/files/bbc-7th-edition-final-nov2019.pdf

2. Lerner, C. (2017, February 17). Babies and stress: The facts. Zero To Three. https://www.zerotothree.org/resources/1709-babies-and-stress-the-facts

3. National Scientific Council on the Developing Child. (2015). Supportive relationships and active skill-building strengthen the foundations of Resilience: Working paper 13. Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. https://developingchild.harvard.edu/resources/supportive-relationships-and-active-skill-building-strengthen-the-foundations-of-resilience/

4. Shanker, S., & Barker, T. (2016). Self-reg: How to help your child (and you) break the stress cycle and successfully engage with life. Penguin Press.

5. Siegel, D. J., & Bryson, T. P. (2014). No-drama discipline: The whole-brain way to calm the chaos
and nurture your child’s developing way. Bantam Books.

6. Siegel, D., & Bryson, T. P. (2020). The power of showing up: How parental presence shapes who our kids become and how their brains get wired. Ballantine Books.

About the Author

Rachel Cook is a Product Development Specialist. Before joining Great Kids®, she worked as a home visitor with Kentucky HANDS. Rachel lives in Berea, Kentucky, with her husband, where she loves writing and exploring nature.

Recent Posts

Hope

Hope

Hope can be defined as wanting something to happen or be true or to expect something with confidence, per Merriam-Webster....

read more
The Next Generation

The Next Generation

Great Kids has been up to some exciting things for the past couple of years, and we are finally ready to share with the rest of the world! We have completed our most comprehensive update of our GGK Prenatal to 36 months (GGK P36) curriculum series – we call it the “GGK P36 NEXT GENERATION” series. It has been a labor of love for us. We intentionally reviewed all components of the curriculum, listened to feedback from the field, and incorporated the best practices in early childhood for our revisions, and the result is spectacular.

read more
Welcoming a New Sibling

Welcoming a New Sibling

In today’s technology-driven world, it seems so much simpler to capture special moments. Most of us usually have our phone handy, so...

read more

Let’s Play!

We’re going to spend some time talking about the different ways that children play. You’ve probably noticed that all children like to...

read more

Growing Great Kids® Next Generation P-36

Our latest effort to support the work of Home Visiting, our Growing Great Kids® Next Generation (GGK®) Curriculum materials.

GGK® for Preschoolers

A Curriculum & Certification Program for Home Visitors aimed at fostering the growth of nurturing, developmentally enriched parenting skills, building protective factors for children 3 to 5 years old.

Other Products and Training

Great Kids™ is dedicated to supporting programs and practitioners with a variety of curricula and training options.

Open Enrollment

View upcoming virtual seminar open enrollment dates and subject areas. 

How to Get Started

Start by scheduling a free 30-minute webinar to learn more about how your organization might benefit from Great Kids™ affordable curriculum with no recurring costs.

Schedule Your Free Webinar Today

Frequently Asked Questions from Our New Customers

Please review common questions for those that are new to Great Kids™. Book your free, personalized webinar to learn more.

For Our Existing Customers

Thank you for being part of the Great Kids™ family of agencies and programs. Support from Great Kids™ is just a click or phone call away.

Pre and Post Certification Products

All the tools you need to start using Great Kids™ Curriculum right away and to continue to enhance the effectiveness of your program.

Ordering Materials

Need replacement manuals? Want to add to your library of Great Kids™ resources? Find everything you need here.

  • New Products
  • Recovery-Impact-Support-Empower
  • Replacement Materials
  • Spanish Materials Available

Open Enrollment

View upcoming virtual seminar open enrollment dates and subject areas. 

Existing Customer FAQs

Are you a past or current customer of Great Kids™? Find common questions and answers here.

Pricing Information for Existing Customers

Find pricing for companion products and other programs.

About Great Kids®

In partnership with home visitors, we’ve helped hundreds of thousands of children feel safe and secure, loved and valued, curious and capable.

Contact Great Kids

100 North 72nd Avenue

Wausau, WI 54401

Email: info@greatkidsinc.net 

Phone: 1-800-906-5581

Research

Great Kids™ has incorporated decades of theoretical and empirical foundations regarding the kinds of interventions that have been shown to make a difference for children into the Growing Great Kids® Prenatal to 5 Years and Growing Great Families® curricula.

Alignment With Program Models

Our curricula are flexible enough to be used within a multitude of program models.

Protective Factors

The research-based principles of the Protective Factors Framework were foundational in the development of the Growing Great Kids® Curriculum.

Great Kids Blog

Find informative articles about growing creativity in young children, welcoming a new sibling, playing outside, as well as general Great Kids™ updates.

GK Video Podcast

A video podcast series dedicated to overcoming bias in others, and within our selves.

Parent’s Place Newsletter

Limited edition, weekly installment Newsletter published from March through December 2020 with printable resources for home visitors and the families they serve.

Open Enrollment

Great Kids is proud to offer a variety of virtual seminar opportunities! Visit our Open Enrollment page for the latest dates and seminar offerings. 

 

We continuously add seminar dates to our list so please check back often. For more information about how to enroll, contact us at info@greatkidsinc.net.

 

We look forward to partnering with you!

 

 

We will contact you for scheduling!