Kids have had it pretty tough in recent months. Their schedules have been turned upside down and their activities have been limited.
They have missed their friends, and normal outlets to release energy and stress have been cut back or cut off altogether. They’re acting out, not sleeping as well, and more easily upset.
Parents are having a Tough Time too
Their parents have had stresses of their own to cope with — physical, emotional, and financial. It’s understandably hard to be the best parent you can be under such circumstances.
Even the gradual opening up of the country has only been a temporary balm, as the rules of how we must engage with one another have seemed to change overnight, and curfews and unrest have only added to the stress and limitations.
If this is your situation right now, you are probably acutely aware that your kids are stressed. In addition to behavior issues and poor sleep, they may be complaining of more headaches, backaches, or stomach aches, the most common somatic manifestations of stress in kids.
They likely lack the verbiage to accurately voice what they are experiencing, and simply may not be able to convey to you what is on their minds.
These Strategies can Help
If you are a parent coping with this situation, first and foremost, cut yourself some slack. You’re stressed too! If you find yourself getting short-tempered with your kids, make it a priority to just own up and apologize.
Do something to repair the relationship, whether it is a hug or an activity you enjoy together. Don’t be too hard on yourself about it though – extend the same understanding and grace to yourself that you are trying to extend to your kids.
Kids tend to be sensitive and aware of when we are downplaying things and hiding information from them, especially when they sense we are stressed. Tackle this issue head-on by answering questions honestly, keeping in mind your child’s maturity and level of understanding.
By consistently showing that you are open to questions, you will encourage communication and confidence. It will help your kids to know they can come to you and expect a straightforward response.
Empower Your Kids
And if current circumstances are causing you to feel out of control of so much in your life, how must they make your children feel? We all know the adage that we should focus on what is in our control, but what does that look like when it comes to kids?
It turns out that there is a degree of comfort in having a routine and a daily to-do list, and that is still within our power to create. Partner with your kids to create this same structure and routine to their days, and let them have a lot of input in crafting it for themselves.
A logical next step is to give your kids as much decision-making power as possible over their day-to-day lives. Include them in family decision making, and let them participate in matters that impact them. Even participating in a small way with decisions will help them to feel more in control of their situation.
More Helpful Tips
The news, whether in the form of TV, podcasts, or the internet, has a way of injecting negativity into the air and tends to put everyone on edge. Even if your kids are very young, don’t think that they are not picking up on it.
Give them a break from the news, and if you are finding that it makes you edgy, take a break as well! Find a more positive way to fill that space.
While we often talk about self-care for ourselves, model and encourage it in your kids. There is nothing wrong with taking a break and seeking out relaxing and comforting rituals. That may look different for your child than for you, but it is every bit as necessary.
Finally, seek outside help if you believe that stress levels – yours or your children’s – have gotten out of control. You don’t have to carry this burden alone, and there are resources available out there to support you.