We know you love your kids. But being in quarantine can be a very real stressor. While it can lead to a lot of quality time, it can also lead to a lot of testing behaviors as kids try to figure out this new world routine. Not to mention that growth spurts will guarantee that kids MUST challenge rules and seek new power. So, until life goes back to normal, parents may need to enhance their tool kit, to positively support kids’ as they must misbehave, in order to learn not to.
- Plan and balance the day. Structure helps kids feel safe. Balance active/quiet activities, and inside /outside times. Structure Media and balance media time with outdoor time. Post the plan so kids will know what to expect of the day, and make it as consistent as possible from day to day.
- Blood sugar matters! Hungry kids will act out more often, and with greater intensity. They won’t always know the root of their behavior may be hunger. Scientists call this “Hangray”, Hangry is real, and not just for kids! Plan meals and snacks so that people eat with regularity—every 2-3 hours! Breakfast, snack, Lunch, snack, rest time, snack, dinner and bedtime snack. Eats protein, especially at bedtime. Drink lots of water, especially as it gets hotter outside. Your brain and behavior will thank you!
- Movement is the Language of the Brain. Kids re-focus and re-energize their brain when they move. Moving creates laughter and silly and fun! Have a Dance Party with scarves/ribbons/feathers with silly music, run and have races, make obstacle courses, ride bikes, shoot hoops, play badminton and ping pong. Great after the afternoon siesta and snack as a wakeup activity. Fantastic family time!
- Snuggle Time matters. When emotions go up, a hug is an excellent tool to re-set emotions. Connecting emotionally stabilizes kids and their behavior. Building snuggle time into the day, just as you would a meal, makes it an emotional boost for kids to calm. Even older kids need snuggles, even if they resist!
- Positive feedback will increase positive behaviors. Look for what’s working well, and say so as factually as possible. And as often as possible. Look for kids doing the right thing, and show appreciation right in the moment. Recap the day at bedtime with 1-2 positive behaviors your child has accomplished.
- Conflict is inevitable, and not just between kids. Conflicts can erupt over really silly things, but in the moment, feel REALLY important. They are often triggered by hunger, being over-stimulated, being thirsty, being late….and then, some silly thing can become the last straw. Usually, once irritation erupts, the 57 other irritants that led up to the last straw will come out as well.
When anger and irritation blow up into conflict:
- Get calm if you can.
- Whisper, to lower the energy level.
- Turn off lights and TV to lower the stimulus level.
- Hug, if possible, to re-connect emotionally.
- EMPATHIZE! It helps to see things from another person’s point of view, to de-escalate upset feelings. It helps to know that others “get it” when you receive empathy. IT will often shut down the upset moment. A very good tool, and a very good use of time to use it!
- If you can’t access these tools, walk away to your pre-designated Alone Spot to blow off steam, alone.
- Once calm, apologize if needed and hug to re-connect.
- Then, before bedtime today, problem-solve what happened so you have a new plan moving forward. This will provide closure to the conflict.
Keep in mind, kids watch how you resolve conflicts as adults, and they will imitate!
- Plan for Alone Time for everyone. This can be at nap time, which can become Siesta Time as kids get older. It can also be woven into the schedule of the day with puzzles, books on audible, reading chapter books on the hammock time, etc. People of all ages benefit from these down times.
- Let kids help with cleaning, cooking, laundry, outside chores, etc. They will feel important, and these tasks offer great life skills. Adults will feel less frazzled and less burdened with all of the daily work. But generally, adults will need to ask kids to do a specific task. It is a rare child that looks around and says, “What needs to be done?” or “How can I help?”
While that will be a long-term goal to build such awareness in your child, it will take specific requests at first, followed by appreciation for their help. Start young! Toddlers will be drunk on the power of helping! If we wait until they are teens to begin to ask for help, it will be far less successful, since they are in a stage of opposition, and will say NO. Unless we offer to pay them. Please resist the urge to pay them for daily family tasks—they get to do them, since they are a member of the family.
- Plan for talking time at bedtime to download the day, and check in about what’s on their mind. In this time of heightened alert and lockdowns, they may have heard something about Covid-19 and misunderstood. They may be worried they will die. Or you will die. Let them know how powerful you are in building health by eating well, exercising daily, getting sleep, balancing tech with real life. Take you vitamins! Let them know how powerful they are in the same ways. We prevent illness by doing healthy things and by wearing a mask right now. We wash hands a lot. Your family does have a plan if someone gets sick. And remind them that many, many, many people are recovering.
- Play together! It doesn’t matter how you play together, as long as you relax and have fun. The goal is not to coach new skills or measure skills. Swing! Plant spring flowers or vegetables. Ride bikes. Read a chapter book together. Old maid is always a good idea! Mud, sand, bubbles…always a gateway to fun! Make pancakes.
You get the idea—what did you love to do as a child that was playful? Swinging statues? Freeze tag? Hide and seek? Just not before bedtime! Active play is best before dinner, and then it’s all calm down time from there, so everyone in your family can rest well.
We look forward to seeing you soon at the office as Austin opens up gradually and safely, but in the meantime, we can schedule calls and/or FaceTime or Zoom appointments as needed.
Please let us know if we can support you in any way.
Claire & Jennie