Editor’s note: Sara Davison, is a Raleigh mom and founder of Kinly, an online parenting platform aimed at expecting parents and parents of young children.
Sarah Harris, is a licensed marriage and family therapist, a registered play therapist supervisor and a board certified telemental health provider. Inspired by her family, she wanted to learn how she herself could have a successful marriage and family. And she now helps others through her group private practice that provides exclusively virtual therapy to individuals, children, couples and families.
Harris, married for 17 years with two daughters and a fur baby named Nala, is a passionate advocate for soul-care. Some of the ways that she nurtures herself is through long-distance running, yoga, reading, meditation, cooking and sharing vegetarian and vegan meal ideas. Here’s a Q&A.
Sara Davison: It’s been a turbulent year for families. What have you observed in your therapy practice concerning the parenting of littles?
Sarah Harris: The turbulent times we’ve all experienced recently has not left our families unscathed to some degree. I’ve observed for children it has had both positive and negative social-emotional impacts from being thrilled they get to be home more with their parents to disappointment realizing their parents are not always available to them to worry and anxiety that they or their loved ones will get COVID-19. There has been a lot of change for children and, in turn, this affects how parents need to relate to their children.
From a child development perspective, most young children aren’t even aware of what they are feeling and why. Rather, these feelings will most times present themselves as problematic behaviors such as, meltdowns, clinginess, poor concentration, isolating, changes in sleep patterns and angry outbursts.
I have observed that many parents do not feel well-equipped to parent during these unstable and tumultuous times. Instead, they feel lost and overwhelmed. They themselves might be having a hard time managing their own personal stress. They don’t know if they should even talk to their kids about COVID and current events, and if so, how to do this. They want to do the right thing, but, instead feel stuck. They so desperately do not want to make things worse for their child.
SD: What has been the biggest challenge you’ve seen for parents during this time ?
SH: I think that for parents, the biggest challenge, has been trying to give attention to all of the various parts of their child’s well-being including their academic, social-emotional and physical needs. Parents have suddenly had to figure out virtual schooling and all of the challenges that come with it from helping their children learn using a computer to helping them staying engaged and keep up with their school work.
On top of that, parents are worried that especially the littles are not getting the social interaction with their peers, which is a building block of emotional intelligence, a healthy self-esteem, good social skills and all of the other benefits that playing with ones peers provides. They are also trying to focus on their children’s physical needs. Many kids are not motivated to go outside and exercise. Parents struggle to sometimes pull them away from their electronic devices in order to do activities with the family or just go outside and play. So, as a parent, it is hard to focus on the child’s overall well-being, during a pandemic, when they might have to work from home or support a spouse who now has to work from home.
SD: What is your top tip to help parents of littles parent mindfully?
SH: Talk to your children about what’s going on. Kids worry more when they are kept in the dark. They need to know that they can come to you with their worries and questions. They also need to know that they will hear the truth from you. Keep it developmentally appropriate, honest and reassuring. You are their safe haven and the recurring message that I encourage you to communicate is that despite these difficult times, they are safe. Focus on what you as a family are doing to stay safe.
SD: What do you love the most about what you do?
SH: One of my favorite things about what I do is seeing hope and confidence return to a parent. Many times, parents come to my practice, feeling beaten down, guilty, overwhelmed, stressed and embarrassed. Over time, in our work together, they realize that their strengths are still present. I love to remind them that their children love and need them, even amidst problematic behaviors. And they are better able to understand the child’s behavior by understanding the emotion behind the behavior. They may still not have all of the answers, but they feel more confidence and hope, because they feel understood and can walk away with some tools and resources to move forward with.
SD: Tell us a little more about your practice and how you can support parents and children with your services.
SH: My practice consists of several licensed therapists, who specialize in children, teens, couples, families and individual therapy. Our therapists work with families as a whole or in parts, such as child only, or parents only. We are an exclusively online group private practice and were one of the few therapists providing both online therapy and online play therapy prior to the pandemic. We believe in making therapy accessible to families and are thrilled at the response that we get from parents who now have professional support from the comfort of their homes.
In addition we offer social skills groups for children and teens, corporate training such as equity and inclusivity in the workplace and more.
My practice is also part of the Kinly network. Kinly is a parenting platform for families of littles. Once you connect to Kinly, you feel like you are part of a village, where families can easily connect to expert providers such as therapists, doulas, nutritionists, physical therapists and also access free, educational content from therapists. I like Kinly because not only is it a great resource I can point families to, but our community needs strong families and being part of Kinly means we can collectively work to strengthen families & therefore our community, together.
Sarah Harris is a member of the Kinly Collective, a group of vetted experts from the Kinly parenting platform that are selected to provide free parenting resources, advice and tips to local families in the form of videos & interactive ‘ask the expert’ seminars on the Kinly parenting platform. Resources are currently free or all Triangle families, visit https://www.kinly.co or follow the Kinly Instagram or Facebook.