What is that one common challenge every Parent is facing these days? Sudden change in behavior of their children. The calm, shy, and introvert have suddenly become loud, while some have gone into a quiet zone avoiding any kind of interaction. Even young pre-nursery school children with little or no grasp of current events are sensing the anxiety of those around them and feeling anxious.
COVID-19 restrictions have impacted the movement and playfulness behavior in children. Children with excess energy not burned off at school and/or parks and bored with their sedentary lifestyle are showing signs of frustration and anger in some or other way. Since children cannot always articulate their feelings and are less developed in their ability to problem-solve, their stress can therefore show up as disruptive behavior, noncompliance, and tantrums.
As adults, we are also so involved in juggling our day to day lives that we unintentionally miss noticing such changes, thinking “maybe it’s just a phase”.
Many families and their children are struggling to cope with the challenges of increased family time at home due to the extended lockdown situation in the wake of the pandemic. Long-established routines have transformed overnight, and parents are strapped for resources, leading to an increase in family conflict and child behavior problems.
If you’re seeing more challenging behavior from your children, you’re not alone.
The below-mentioned effects of lockdown on children are surely manifesting in a very ugly and unpleasant way
- Physical changes: Increased weight & lethargy due to reduced physical activity, eyesight issues due to increased screen time, back pain, changed in diet, binge eating, or demanding food frequently
- Behavioral changes: Irritable behavior, use of loud voice to talk or express feelings, slamming doors or things, clinging, whining, repeating lines, increased stubbornness, uncontrollable tantrums, difficulty in sleeping or daytime sleepiness, change in toilet habits, careless attitude, reduced attention span, increased sibling quarrels, always on the move, destructive playtime
- Mental health issues: Bedtime fears, sudden meltdowns on petty matters, signs of increased anger, avoiding self-maintenance, trouble concentrating.
How to address these changes?
- Set a routine: This goes without saying that agreeing to new routines and sticking to clear and consistent rules, will bring that much-required structure, calmness, and sanity in the house. It helps children know what’s expected of them. Vega schools, a CBSE school in Gurgaon, had shared a detailed article on Routine and its importance dated 8th July and 13th July 2020, please click on this to read more.
- Managing adult’s behavior first: To best take care of our family, we must first take care of ourselves. “As they say on airplanes, ‘secure your oxygen mask before assisting others”. Children who have parents with high levels of stress show more externalizing problems and less emotional regulation. Adults are also on the verge of emotional outbursts in this pandemic situation, they sometimes exhibit behavior which their children have not witnessed before. This in turn sends alarming signals to these tender minds, and they react in a certain way. Again another informative blog is available on the Vega Schools website where we talk about mental health.
So next time when you feel like screaming, take a pause of 10 secs, breathe in slowly, and then try to respond calmly.
- Pause to appreciate good behavior: If you’re happy with your child’s behavior, make sure they know it by celebrating their positive behavior. This helps develop a sense of confidence, self-love, and motivation to do better in the future. There are many free or low-cost reward options like extra screen time, extra playtime, or video call with a best friend. It is important to spell out the behavior you want so that everyone knows what it takes to get a reward.
- It’s ok to be a bad cop too: Sometimes our children push their boundaries and behave in a way that makes us upset, it then becomes necessary to have some specific consequences for that behavior. Keeping them grounded for a certain period of time, or taking away the gadget: can be done to make them take responsibility for their bad behavior. Once the consequence is over, move on. Give the child a chance to do something good, and praise them for it. Address the action, not the child.
- Resist, ignore, and redirect: Resist feeding the child’s tantrum by leaning in, ignore, and return attention to something else-just to avoid any massive tantrum. In the absence of park visits or playdates, children these days have a lot of time to kill, hence bad behavior can come from boredom or frustration too. Instead of disciplining the child every time, just distract them with something interesting.
- Family time: This may sound like a misfit now because we all are spending maximum time indoors with our family, what extra needs to be done then? Well, it’s not the hours that we spend, but what we do in those hours. Good parent-child communication is the foundation for better child behavior. Family conversation time during dinner, binge-watching web series with children, an evening stroll on the sideway, or even mending a broken pan together: all these are good opportunities to have open lines of communication and understand our children’s fears.
- Validate the child’s emotion, acknowledge and accept it-Make them feel heard. If our child is upset but calm enough to engage in conversation, positive behavior can be fostered by helping her/him identify the emotion and validating her experience It means acknowledging the emotions that drive the behavior.
- Virtual Social interaction: Children lack companionship these days. We need to substitute physical distancing with social interaction. Thanks to technology, it is possible now. A quick video call to a friend, whom they have not met for 8 months, can brighten up their day.
- Keeping them engaged: Productive engagement not only helps in managing a child’s behavior issues but also brings out the best creativity in them. Engagement doesn’t necessarily have to be educative or learning-related, but it can be anything from planning a future vacation once the pandemic is over or planting and naming a tree, or cleaning their pet’s house. We need to make sure that it’s interesting.
- Share basic facts about Covid-19 news: With the constant buzz of news on the television and the internet, we have to update them with facts and information around the virus, of course in an age-appropriate manner. We also need to restrict exposing them to the constant news of the pandemic, to avoid adding more stress. To know how to talk about the corona, please head to this article by Vega schools, dated 1st April 2020
- Eat, sleep, and move: These basics are more important than ever. We need to ensure that our child is maintaining good sleeping, eating, and exercise routine.
- Seek professional help, don’t give up: Even after following all the above-mentioned strategies and practicing mindfulness, if the child is still struggling, and then we highly recommend taking additional support from counselors, behavioral therapists of mental health practitioners.
Testing boundaries and misbehaving is something that all children will do to some extent as they grow up, so there is no need for parents to feel a sense of failure. Lockdown and restricted movement have inhibited the social development of our children. Therefore, it is important to spread awareness about the importance of the mental health of the children. Prioritizing the mental health and behavior change of our children throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond is critical.
We at Vega Schools, the top 5 schools in Gurugram, have well-trained counselors who always stay abreast of learner’s emotional and mental needs.
Please feel free to contact us for any support.