Home visitors connect with families to engage parents in services and help them read their children’s cues. But how can home visiting staff foster attunement—within themselves, with parents, and with their colleagues—during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Mindful Self-Regulation is a “superpower” that anyone can use to find balance in uncertain times, says Linda Gilkerson, Ph.D., LSW. Home visitors can practice Mindful Self-Regulation to remain calm and nonjudgmental working with families and to help families feel heard. Supervisors can use it to support their staff and to give home visitors an example to model for parents.
Gilkerson is the director of the Irving B. Harris Infant Studies Program at the Erikson Institute in Chicago. In 2003, she founded the Fussy Baby Network to help families struggling with their infants’ crying, sleeping, or feeding. She also developed the Facilitating Attuned Interactions (FAN) tool used by home visiting programs to better identify and meet families’ needs. Mindful Self-Regulation is a core element of the FAN approach.
Here, Gilkerson provides three Mindful Self-Regulation tips that can be used on their own or in conjunction with the FAN tool:
- Read your own cues. People respond differently to stress, with some finding themselves “more revved up” and others moving at a slower place. Pay attention to how your body and mind are reacting, Gilkerson says, to identify the types of strategies that might help you find balance.
- Find what works for you. Common strategies for Mindful Self-Regulation include breathing deeply, picturing a soothing background, or speaking affirmations. Other strategies focus more on establishing a physical connection with our bodies and our environments, such as feeling grounded by placing both feet on the floor and feeling the full support of your chair during telephone calls.
- Be kind to yourself. Remember that everything requires extra energy right now, Gilkerson says. Do something daily to rejuvenate yourself—whether it’s watching a favorite television show or connecting with a friend—so you can continue your role as a coregulator. And show yourself compassion in the moments when fear or anxiety seem to take over by speaking to yourself with kindness and reassurance.
This advice is particularly relevant amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but it can also benefit the home visiting field in the years ahead. Says Gilkerson, “The regulating practices you strengthen now can be a resource when the new normal arrives.”
Learn more about the FAN approach on the Erikson Institute and Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs websites.
Discover more strategies for implementing mindfulness techniques in early childhood environments.