Eight weeks ago, my son Scott’s preschool teacher handed me a brown paper lunch bag full of art supplies and project ideas that she hoped would help keep him busy for the (intended) 2-week school closure. As I peeked inside, I noticed my bag had a lot more yellow supplies than the other bags (a yellow flower, a yellow bunny...). A nod to his favorite color, I smiled and thanked her, feeling grateful for the personal connection and relationship she has built with my son. 

Fast forward to today, and interactions with his teacher largely take the form of weekly, whole class Zoom meetings. All 12 little “Zoom squares” have a 3-year-old with a VERY important message for the teacher. Recognizing that competing for individual teacher attention is even more challenging virtually, Scott usually lasts about 12 minutes before he’s “ready to say goodbye.” As he sneaks out of the room, I wave goodbye to his classmates and wonder to myself how long these video calls last, as we’ve never made it to the end of one. 

It is a difficult and overwhelming time right now, and taking the time to help children feel heard and valued can be challenging. The most important adults in children’s lives—teachers and parents—are facing new and increased demands and levels of stress as the coronavirus-forced school closures upend familiar routines and a sense of predictability. Indeed, emotion researchers highlight a broad shift in the emotional landscape caused by coronavirus, reporting that 95% of surveyed adults are currently feeling anxiety, stress, and fear. 

However, this difficult time also serves to highlight an important truth and opportunity: that emotional intelligence (a set of skills that can be practiced and developed) is essential. Our ability to manage challenging, unpleasant emotions—and to be emotion “coaches” for children—is more important now than ever before. Fortunately, we can start small by creating moments of meaningful connection with our families, our children, our students. Moments where we take time to listen and connect, model emotion skills, and foster feelings like valued and understood. These moments add up. 

While our intent at Family Engagement Lab has always been for FASTalk messages to help prompt meaningful moments of connection between parents and children while building key skills, we’re especially thankful to be able to play this important role during this extraordinary time. Let us know what “meaningful moments” look like in your home by tweeting @FamilyELab or @elisabeth_cady or using the hashtag #FASTalkMM.


Elisabeth O'Bryon
Co-Founder, Family Engagement Lab