The past few months have been incredibly tough on all of us. As parents, we have struggled to manage family life and our work without the support of childcare that we usually rely upon. This has manifested itself in a range of emotional and physical quarantine responses. And as the conditions slowly begin to ease, it’s easy to forget that this transition may not be as smooth as we had hoped. The mental weight of the quarantine has taken its toll, even on the smallest members of the family, so we need to make sure we’re looking after them, too.
Dealing With Children’s Emotions
Our own emotional response to the pandemic has been a wide range of feelings – from fear and anxiety to frustration that our plans have been changed or canceled and uncertainty about the right thing to do for our families. Kids have experienced the same rollercoaster that we have. The result of this can be especially hard as children may become overly clingy or more prone to tantrums due to their usual routine being changed. Our kids are creatures of habit and often don’t cope well with change. They need security, and that’s the one thing we’ve struggled to provide as circumstances changed around us. This can manifest itself in actions such as regression – so if your potty-trained child is suddenly having a lot of accidents, or bedtime has become a big challenge, fear and uncertainty are often the problem.
Involve Your Children
One of the big mistakes we often make is trying to shield our children too much from the reality of a situation. True, communication does need to be age-appropriate, but sharing a little of your plans with your kids can be an enormous help. You may not fully know what’s coming up in the long term, but you could try simply having a talk on a Sunday about what is coming up that week – for example, if a child is returning to day care, or if you have to attend a few more online meetings one day but will be freer to play on the next day, let them know. Communication skills are so important to model to children, and giving them as much warning as you can when things are going to change is a good idea to help them mentally prepare for change. Emma Kate often asks us what we have going on this week or weekend, so I know she appreciates a “heads up.”
Ask Open Ended Questions
Getting your child to open up and talk about their emotions is extremely important. Encourage them to speak to you about how they are feeling by asking open-ended questions about how things make them feel – for example, ‘You haven’t been able to see your friends for a while. Now you will be playing with them again, but with a few new rules in place. How do you feel about that?’. Encourage them to elaborate and don’t jump in with your own opinions and thoughts. Hold back from judging them as well – children must have confidence that they can speak their truth to you without fear of your judgment. Remember that feeling a certain way isn’t ‘wrong’. They are all just emotions, as valid as each other. Where you can help is by letting your kids see that the way they feel and the way they act is separate. They still have control over how they respond to a situation, even when it feels like the world is out of control. You got this!