Connected in Crisis: Families

Our work at the Karyn Purvis Institute of Child Development is centered around connection. We study attachment between parents/caregivers and children and connections within communities. So much of Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI)  is based on the idea that we are hardwired to connect.

But what happens when connection in the traditional sense is cut off? With the growing threat of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) and recommendations to self-quarantine or at the very least, practice social distancing, connection as we know it seems impossible. How can we maintain bonds with our loved ones who live outside of our homes? How can we remain in-sync with co-workers? And how can we transform the forced togetherness inside our homes into true connection?

Simply put, we must be creative and think outside the box. We asked our staff and some of our TBRI Practitioners to provide some of their best tips for families to stay connected in a crisis. Here’s what they said:


Have conversations

“Talk to your kids in age appropriate terms about what’s going on. You’ll be surprised what they’ve already heard from their friends and it might be scarier than factual reality.”   – Kate V., TBRI Practitioner

“We need to turn off the news, at least when kids are around. Ask your kids what they know and why they think we are staying home. Then we need to explain it to them in a way they will understand then ask them their thoughts, questions, and feelings about it.”   – Brooke Hayes, KPICD Research Associate

“I check in with my kids about their concerns and fears. We talk about their highs and lows and clarify areas of confusion. There’s a lot that’s unknown right now, so it’s important to acknowledge that it can be scary to not know what’s coming next. Listening as they process what’s going on is helping us all stay connected.”   – Dr. Casey Call, KPICD Assistant Director


Utilize Technology

“Call and FaceTime family.” – Crystal D., TBRI Practitioner

“My daughter texts and uses FaceTime with her friends and my son plays games online with his.” – Dr. Casey Call, KPICD Assistant Director

“Enjoy a meal together over FaceTime or Zoom with grandparents or friends.” –Mike F., TBRI Practitioner


Integrate healthy touch (safely!)

Wash your kids hands. It’s an easy way to get some healthy touch AND make sure they’re clean! Just stand behind your little and put your soapy hands over theirs and wash. Scrub their little fingers, get a nail brush and scrub under those nails (then clip and or paint them for a little more cleanliness and bonding!)”–  Kate V., TBRI Practitioner

“Find ways to provide healthy touch/closeness/proximity to our kids is vital always but especially now when their outlets are so limited.” – Brittany F., TBRI Practitioner

Find more ideas about integrating healthy touch in this blog post.


Make the day predictable

“I think the biggest help is creating a schedule. Routines and transitions will be key at this time. We are also encouraging creating special dance moves that families and friends can share that don’t require touching.” —Nancy T., TBRI Practitioner

“Our family created a schedule together where my kids have a lot of choices of things to do.” – Dr. Casey Call, KPICD Assistant Director

“I took a page from Siegel and tried to give my teens a structure of 30 min + blocks of outside time, creative time, together time, and self-growth time that they must complete before asking me about screens.” – Brooks K., TBRI Practitioner


Stay Active

“We are staying active while indoors through follow the leader “workouts” and when we can, taking walks together outdoors.”    – Brittany F., TBRI Practitioner

“We’re taking lots of family walks with our dogs around the neighborhood.”   – Dr. Casey Call, KPICD Assistant Director


Practice Gratitude

“We’re sending letters to members of the family (in house) and sharing what we appreciate about their personality and character, making lists of what we are grateful to have, and sharing favorite memories through pictures and stories of times together.”            – Brittany F., TBRI Practitioner

“Write letters of gratitude to the people who have impacted your life. Studies show that it improves overall happiness!”   – Dr. David Cross, Rees-Jones Director, KPICD

(Dr. Cross was inspired by this video for more information, but note there is a bit of adult language)


Encourage play

My kids figured out some social distance play to do with neighbors. My kiddos were on our driveway, their friends on theirs. They on their own figured out several games that works with distance drive way to drive way like rock, paper, scissors, Mirror dancing, Simon says, etc. No Germ swapping and lots of laughter. The loss of friendship connections they are feeling big time right now.”   – Heather A., TBRI Practitioner

“Now is the time to connect with your kids. Play games together – lots of games – board games, card games, video games, Theraplay games.”  – Jason Bentsen, TBRI Practitioner

“Do a daily dance video!”   – Crystal D, TBRI Practitioner


Start a family project

“We have plans to do a family production. My older children are going to write a script or adapt an existing script. One of my daughters loves to do makeup, so she’ll be our makeup artist, one son is a musician so he will provide the music, another daughter loves to design costumes and will be in charge of those. They will have to direct their younger siblings and we will take short clips and then edit it together.”

“Have the older children cook a meal and maybe choose a country as their theme for the night.”

– Joy Z., TBRI Practitioner

“My daughter and I made a sidewalk chalk obstacle course in the driveway. We used different color chalks for each “obstacle.” Ours consisted of: spin 3x, hop on one foot, walk the line, jumping jacks 5x, alternate feet, recite a spelling word, hopscotch, touch toes, crisscross feet, say something your thankful for, squats 10x, walk backwards/moonwalk, and finish with your best dance moves. (Sorry, we have a long driveway!)

I like this idea because it is easy to customize and change the “course.” It can also be for any age. For older kids/teens, incorporating more exercises, dribbling a ball, etc could be fun. Also, not only is this a sensory integrated (empowering) activity, there are so many opportunities for connection. The first opportunity is simply creating the course together. Take turns picking the obstacles. Also, there should be praise given throughout the completion of the course. Lastly, you can make side-by-side courses that are identical and completed with the caretaker. Add “obstacles” that require eye contact or facing each other, holding hands, saying something nice about the other person, and so much more. Be creative! I shared this with my house parents and staff on our campus of family-style residential group homes. I’m encouraging our folks to see all this time together (kids out of school) as more opportunities for connection with our kids. Hopefully, other caretakers will find this helpful!”   – Patrick A., TBRI Practitioner

“We love creating a family art project or having an indoor treasure hunt.” – Brittany F., TBRI Practitioner


Try to stay positive

“Show your kids JOY. That it is a JOY to be where they are. That it’s a JOY to have them home from school. If you are dreading this, they will feel it.”   – Kate V., TBRI Practitioner

Collaborate on the things we want to do NEXT (trips we want to take, places we want to go, etc) when the opportunity to return to some normalcy comes around.”   – Brittany F., TBRI Practitioner


2 Responses to “Connected in Crisis: Families”

  1. Hilary Bridges

    Do you all have ideas for facilitating connection and attachment between parents and their children in care? Our CPA, like others, are now doing visits over Zoom, etc. and are looking for ideas to help parents stay connected, especially with younger children.
    Thank you.
    Hilary Bridges, LPC
    Assistant Executive Director
    TBRI Practitioner
    EMDR Certified Therapist

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