Even though coronavirus lock-down restrictions are being eased, we know that being holed up at home for a long time can be mentally and emotionally draining for a lot of people, especially children. The fear, uncertainty, and unexpected change can cause great stress on your child causing them to feel anxious or restless. This is completely normal given the current circumstances, however it can result in an anxious household. But don’t fret, here are some tips that can help you to build and maintain positivity in your household!
1. Talk to your child
Communication is important. You child needs to know that they can go to you to talk about anything. Listen to what they are saying and acknowledge their feelings.1 When they are upset, recognise that they are feeling like that right now but guide them into thinking of things they can do to resolve what they are upset about. Children learn best when they think of their own examples as they learn to problem-solve. For example, if they’re upset that they can’t go out to play with their friends, you can calmly say, “I can see that you’re upset you can’t go out to play with your friends right now. How do you think you can stay in touch with them?”2
Don’t forget to ask questions about what they are talking about to show that you are listening to them. Always try your best to explain your decisions or answers to their questions. When they understand the ‘why’ and/or the ‘what’, it can alleviate their fears and anxieties, making them less likely to lash out. This can also build their communication skills and they learn that they can go to you whenever they have problems in the future.
Here are some more tips on how to talk to your child about serious topics.
2. Keep healthy routines2
In a time of uncertainty, it is especially important to keep to a routine. Having a structure to the days offers reassurance to your child. The routine should be predictable but flexible enough for individual needs. If possible, keep to their usual routine — same wake-up and bed-time, follow their usual school timetable, etc.
3. Encourage cooperation to avoid sibling rivalry3
Sibling rivalry is normal, and you can’t avoid it completely. However, you can reduce its frequency. Every child has their own individual needs that you should focus on. Younger children might not understand why you’re spending more time with the baby or toddler and might feel as if they’re not getting any attention. This can be worse now when everyone is stuck at home. Explain to them why the baby needs your attention most of the time. Let them know that because they are older, they have different responsibilities and are more independent. Reassure them that you will still help and be there for them. Set aside some one-on-one time with your older child. Even a 10-minute uninterrupted ‘catch up’ with all your attention can make a huge difference to a child.
Encourage cooperation and don’t set up your children to compete all the time. Organise fun family activities that they can work on together. Plan some arts and crafts time, nature play that can be done in your backyard, practice physical mindfulness exercises with your children, or pretend play!
Ensure that your child has their own space and time to be on their own. If they fought with their siblings, some alone time can help them both calm down and play on their own. When they’re calm, talk to them and listen to their complaints of each other. Reinforce the positive things that they see in each other. When children feel like they are being listened to, they are less likely to fight for your attention. You can also learn more about their sibling rivalry and take steps to reduce the frequency of it happening again.
4. Let your child be the boss (sometimes)4
Toddlers tend to push the boundaries as they grow and develop. This is a good sign of their development and their growth in independence. They are generally toying with what they can or can’t get away with, which is a good time for them to learn what are acceptable and unacceptable behaviours — i.e. they are experimenting and learning.
Give your child the choice when it is safe to do so. Give them two acceptable choices to choose from. For example, when you’re at the park, let them choose between carrying their toys or ball on the way home. That way, the only option is to leave the park, but they get to choose how they do so. This will make them feel respected and heard and might make them less resistant in other situations.
Focus on using positive behaviour and tone. Children will generally tend to defy you if you shout at them. “Don’t bang the door!” can translate to “Bang the door!” in your child’s mind. Kindly tell them what you want them to do. If they’re resting their leg on the table, you can say, “Please put your feet down. Can you wiggle your toes under the table?”. Give them another option or explain why it is wrong.
If that doesn’t work, learn to pick your battles. Letting little things go can reduce stress for both you and your child. It will also make them more inclined to listen to you when things matter more. At the end of the day, remember that your child is only pushing their boundaries because they feel safe and secure enough to experiment and learn what is right and wrong.
5. Lead by example5
Young children copy and learn from how you behave. Take some time for yourself to relax and reduce your stress level. When you find your anger or stress levels rising, find a good and healthy method to calm down. It might not be possible to be positive and happy all the time but having positive and healthy ways to calm down and react to situations can have a good effect not only on yourself but also on the other party. Your child will most likely mimic that behaviour and it is important that the behaviour is positively reinforced.
Take this opportunity to bond with your child
Life isn’t always rainbows and butterflies. We make mistakes and emotions tend to get the better of us. But learning how to overcome those negative thoughts and feelings is a big step to building and maintaining positivity in you and your child and as a result, building and maintaining positivity in your household.
Don’t be too hard on yourself and your child in these hard times. Not going to school and being cooped up at home are very big changes but these tips can, hopefully, help your household readjust. When life goes back to normal, these tips can still be used to keep up the positivity built during your time stuck at home together!
- Center for Mental Wellness. Building a Positive Family Environment — 5 Practical Steps. (Link)
- American Academy of Pediatrics. Parenting in a Pandemic: Tips to Keep the Calm at Home. (Link)
- Marcoux, H. 6 Expert Ways to Stop Sibling Rivalry. (Link)
- Benjamin, J. When Your Toddler Starts Testing His Limits. (Link)
- Molina, K. 10 Ways to Help Your Children Develop a Positive Attitude. (Link)