5 things you can do to cope with COVID Back to School and Bad Behavior

5 things you can do to cope with COVID Back to School and Bad Behavior

Let’s face it, this is a stressful time for everyone. Unfortunately, when we’re stressed, our kids are stressed, and often that stress will show up as behavior that is less than lovable (more on that in a moment).

With the current state of the world wrapped up in a pandemic, there are so many unknowns and our anxiety is being felt by our kids.

Now first, I want to say that is absolutely normal to feel anxiety at this time. Anxiety is wired into our brain to protect us from predators and there is a very real predator “out to get us”. And speaking of the brain , one of the reasons why this time is so hard for us is because our brains are searching for comparison to what we’re facing right now, but we have nothing to compare this to, and this makes the unknown almost unbearable .

The biggest problem is that when we are stressed and anxious, we transfer those feelings to our kids without even knowing it.  Have you ever walked into a room when two people who have just been arguing?  You can feel it in the energy of the room, right?  

When our kids pick up on our energy, they don’t know what to do with it so it shows up in ways we aren’t expecting like more meltdowns, altered sleep patterns, irritability, whining, clinginess, or less cooperation (just to name a few)

  1. Check in with your emotions: Because our kids pick up on our energy, it’s important that we check in with how we’re feeling.  So please, ask yourself: are you feeling scared, anxious, or worried?  How are you feeling about your kids going back to school?  You are just noticing and acknowledging your feelings, not judging them.  Remember, it’s reasonable to feel this way as parents because there are many unknowns at the moment. 

It’s essential to check in with yourself, is because your kids are going to be looking to you to give them answers so it’s important that you manage your own emotions when you talk to them about the coronavirus and going back to school. 

My advice is for you to take a few deep breaths, center yourself, and lean into the conversation.

  • Reassure your kids based on the facts.   Get familiar with the school’s “back to school” protocol so your child is prepared for how things are going to look.  Big changes might feel scary to your kids, so prepare them with the facts as much as you can. 

Explain what’s being done at the school for their safety and why.  Tell them that extra measures are being put in place to ensure they are safe. 

Empower them by telling them they have the power to help keep themselves, classmates, and teachers safe by following the rules and washing hands.  This is how they can do their part.

Let them know that everyone at their school is working really hard to keep everyone safe and healthy and that might mean that there could be some more changes at school this year, maybe even times when we have to go back to some home learning temporarily.  This is not mean to scare them but to reassure them that their safety is the priority.

  • Check in with your kids’ emotions: Depending on the age of your kids, they might be talking to their friends about back to school, so it’s a good idea to ask them what they know.  Find out how they’re feeling as well. 

You want to get ahead of any rumours or assumptions and be the one your kids come to for trusted and accurate information.

Younger kids might not have the advantage of talking with their friends, but they still need to be prepared as well.  Sit with your child and draw out what the class is going to look like.  Maybe show them how it used to look and how it will look now.  Show kids washing hands, adults wiping surfaces, and kids wearing masks.  You can also “play school” to help your child be prepared.

Check in with your kids regularly to see how they’re feeling.  Let them know that you are open to talk about their worries, questions, and fears.   You want to be the one to control the messaging your kids receive.

  • Big Feelings are OK: Remember when I said that your kids might have behavior changes?  It’s helpful to reassure your children that it’s ok to feel their feelings even when they have a big emotional outburst.  If our kids are feeling stressed, they have a natural, built in pressure valve – a meltdown.  This might come at the most inconvenient moment for you (they usually do!) but fighting against a meltdown doesn’t work but encouraging it, and accepting it does.  REALLY!! If you can say to your child, “oh, I see you are feeling so (frustrated) right now and you need to cry, and that’s ok.  I’m right here for you.” Or,  “I know how (disappointed) you are that we can’t see your friends like we used to and you might need to cry about it.  I’ll stay close if you need me.”

Validating emotions is powerful.  The simple act of naming an emotion helps to calm it because in the brain, the left brain releases soothing neurotransmitters to the activated middle brain to calm it.  It’s called “Name it to Tame it”. There is a formula you can follow anytime you are faced with big emotions from your child: Acknowledge/validate feeling + BECAUSE = 2-3 reasons

Here are some examples:

I get why you are feeling disappointed BECAUSE

1 You wanted to stay longer

2 You don’t want to go home

3 And you don’t want the fun to end

No wonder you are so upset BECAUSE

1 You studied so hard for that test

2 You don’t think that was a fair mark

3 And you think it will affect your grade

I see how you are feeling stressed BECAUSE

1 It’s Sunday and that means the weekend is over

2 you don’t want to go to school tomorrow

3 And it means you have to get up early and not sleep in

You know you have done this right when your child physically relaxes and agrees that you have it correct.  You can leave things there or you can add one more step which is to come together to find a solution together.  You can say, “how do you think we can work this out?”  or “what should we do”.  When you ask your child to help come up with the solution they are more likely to follow through because they helped come up with the solution. 

The best part about validating feelings and finding solutions together?  Your child will feel heard, valued, validated, worthy and loved.  A child that feels this way throughout their childhood, will grow into an adult who is equipped with the emotional intelligence needed to THRIVE in this world!

  • The TWO things missing when we’re faced with bad behavior:  When we see behavior we don’t like, it’s easy and automatic to label it as “bad”.   
    • Expectations: Our kids don’t have a fully grown brain.  In fact, the brain doesn’t finish growing well into our twenties.  In parenting we have to keep brain science and developmental stages in mind at all times.   Instead of labeling our kids behavior, we need to look at them as needing help or struggling.  We can’t expect them to act like adults because they simply can’t, and if we expect them to, it causes everyone so much frustration and eats away at their self worth and makes us feel helpless and possibly like we are failing at parenting.   Instead of judging the behavior, look at it as neutral or as communication letting you know they have a need that isn’t getting met or a feeling that needs validation. Then…
  • Curiosity:  This leads us into the second missing factor and that’s WHY is your child acting this way?  What does your child need right now?  Our kids want to get along with us, they want to please us (REALLY!) so when they act out, we have to ask “why?”.  Sometimes we have to ask ourselves first; “Am I agitated from something unrelated to my child?” “Am I upset because I’m taking my child’s behavior personally?” If you can leave yourself out of it, and go to your child, and ask what they are feeling and needing.   You also, what to look at lead up to this moment.  When I’m faced with disrespect, refusal to listen or opposition from by boys, I always pause and say, “how come?” or “you must be really upset to talk to me that way, what’s going on?” or “I hear you don’t want to take out the garbage, can you tell me why?”.  And remember, when you are asking your child why, listen, really listen to what they say (don’t assume you know the answer)!

When you can check in with your expectations and come from a place of curiosity, it will open up a new world of connection and communication between you and your child and that’s the best feeling as a parent!

For more information on this topic and more, visit me at www.parentingforconnection.com

If you are a current client of The Nanny League, I would like to invite you to a FREE Family Tune Up Call HERE

Also, be sure to check out our INSTAGRAM LIVE with Robbin from our COFFEE TALK series here

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