Is Your Child Acting Out? How COVID Has Affected Your Little Ones
Children have gone through a drastic period of upheaval since the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic. Moving from school to virtual classes is a change that upended their entire lives, with ramifications reaching far beyond their academic development. The isolation, the numbing monotony of not being able to play with friends or see their loved ones, the stress of social distancing and the fear of getting infected -- all of these things are taking a toll on them that should not be underestimated, and are instead being reflected in a rise of widespread anxiety. The question of if and when they are going back to school is also stressful for the whole family because it will mean, once again, a dramatic change for what has become everyone’s “new” normal. Transitions are already hard for children under normal circumstances, so the shift of leaving school, spending an entire year at home, and going back to school is one they may need help with in order to process and adapt to.
Common behavioral issues that children display during difficult transitions are:
Attention seeking behavior
More crying than usual
Changes in appetite and sleep
Here's how to help them:
1. Talk to them about the changes
Let the children know that, when schools reopen, there will be some changes due to the risks posed by the coronavirus. For instance, they will have to keep their distance in class and wear masks at all times. Explain to them the importance of following the new directions: it's to keep them safe.
2. Ask them if they are worried about COVID related problems and their return to school
Give them a chance to tell you what and how they feel about going back to school after almost a year of staying at home. They may be anxious at the idea of returning because they’re afraid of being infected, or perhaps they might feel as if they don’t know how to conduct themselves when they see their classmates after so long, now that they have to socialize with their friends without getting too close.
3. Validate their feelings
Children are experiencing a lot of fear, anxiety, and anger during this period of COVID. Whenever kids are faced with traumatic events, they look up to their parents for support and guidance. Listen to their fears and concerns and try to validate their feelings. Since this is a frightening moment for all of us, accept and express to them that it is normal to have fears and concerns, but also reassure them that you will deal with these issues together, as a family.
4. Set up a schedule with them
With the new stay-at-home status quo, when returning to school, a new routine will take place. Establishing a schedule for you and your kids will be a big step towards regaining some sense of order and normalcy. Make a schedule of what each of the children must do at any particular time of the day. For example, when the children should wake up, have breakfast, study or take online classes, perform chores, play, sleep, and so forth. Make sure to involve the children in creating a schedule to make them aware of them. You can also give them a chance to ask questions or bargain the order of the activities. Then, place the visual schedule in a place your child can see it.
5. Allow for playtime
Allow them time to play every day, as this is the most natural way for them to process their emotions. It is important to consider some time in the child’s schedule for free play.
6. Make sure to have 15 minutes of one-on-one time with each of your children
Despite the fact that you are all at home at the same time, try to have a one-on-one time with each of your children as a way of forging a closer bond and making sure that they are not feeling neglected. Allow your child to choose an activity for you both to indulge in together. Listen to each of them, to their fears and frustrations during this difficult time and try to reassure them about the future. It is helpful to do this regularly during the week.
7. Work on a better sleeping schedule
Now that the children are not going to school, they don’t have to wake up too early. Most of them want to sleep till the last minute before online school starts. But once schools open, they have to return to their traditional schedules, so make sure you start preparing them for this reality a few weeks ahead of their return to school by having earlier bedtimes.
8. Practice wearing a mask if a child has not been doing that at home
Parents should teach their children the importance of wearing masks and how to wear them correctly for maximum protection. Let them know that they need to keep their masks on whenever they are in school or outside their homes.
9. Encourage hand washing hand sanitizing so they can take that habit with them to school
Teach your children to regularly wash or sanitize their hands as a way of keeping the virus at bay. Also, show them the correct way of cleansing or sanitizing, and this way, they will continue with the habit when they resume school.
Our children have faced a lot of difficult circumstances this past year. Being out of school, not being able to play with friends and being restricted by strict and, to them, arbitrary limits has certainly been a lot to deal with for them. With most schools set to open this year, many children are worried about coping with a new set of changes, but with proper support from their parents and teachers, you will find that children can positively adapt once again to the new normal.
Your Therapy Friend,
Sofia Robirosa is the owner of Infinite Therapeutic Services and is a Perinatal & Relationships Expert. She offers individual, couples, and family counseling to individuals seeking to enhance their relationship with their children and significant other. Her private practice is located in Plantation, FL. She attended Nova Southeastern University for both her Bachelor and Master Degrees in Marriage and Family Therapy and in Business Administration. She is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, a Perinatal Mental Health Certified Professional, and a Leader in Active Parenting for children and teens. She loves her family, which consists of her husband, daughter and son, and two dogs. Some of her interests outside of work include spending time outdoors, traveling, and dining. Read more about her at: www.plantationcounseling.com and follow her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/infinitetherapy/