As our children grow up and mature, we get excited. They make it through milestones and become much easier to communicate with. When they go backwards and start exhibiting old behaviors, we get frustrated and concerned. That’s understandable. Is your child claiming not to know how to do something today that they easily did yesterday? Are they wetting the bed, getting up in the middle of the night, having daytime potty accidents, wanting to sleep with mom and dad, crying and whining over little things, not listening, seeming distracted or having tantrums or moments of rebellion, lashing out or volatility? You are not alone!
In the current climate of schools and daycares being closed, families staying home for several weeks, wearing masks in the grocery store (can you imagine how scary that is for kids?), missing friends and family, and feeling the financial impact through the stress of adults around them, many children are regressing. They are also showing stress and anxiety through irritability, defiance and clinginess.
In order to properly address these issues, it’s important to look at how parents are feeling about these behaviors, and why. You may be afraid of:
- – Losing traction. You worked hard to hit milestones and don’t want to lose ground.
- – Giving the wrong message. You don’t want your child to think it’s okay to act younger than they are.
- – Power struggles. You don’t want to fight; you just want cooperation.
- – Manipulation. You don’t want to reward a “lie”.
- – Setting a new precedent. You are afraid these behaviors will become the new normal.
These are all valid concerns and understandable. That being said, keep this in mind:
- – Kids often regress when they get stressed.
- – Quarantine is temporary.
- – You are still in charge.
- – Compassion and love create gratitude.
- – Your relationship and your child’s mental health are what’s important.
- – These behaviors are small things in the big picture.
So, what is the answer when your child is acting out (or ideally before)?
- Notice when they are off and choose to offer compassion vs anger. This will allow them to feel their feelings.
- Validate their struggle by saying, “It’s hard not to see your friends right now, isn’t it?” This opens up conversation. They need to talk and be heard.
- Reassure them that your family is safe and everything will be okay.
- Avoid creating power struggles by meeting them where they are, not where they were or where you want them to be.
- When something is not working, sit down and have a conversation.
- Listen with undivided attention and eye contact.
- Slow down so they can keep up.
- Have adult conversations when they are unable to hear them.
- Talk about the positive things happening in the community and plans for seeing friends in the future.
- Spend time together snuggling, laughing, playing.
- Spend time outside.
- Provide some sense of structure within the flow that works for your family.
- Consistency is huge. Keep up the nighttime rituals, take the time for family dinners and/or walks.
- Choose empathy and a conversation vs punishment. Remember the attitude is a response to stress. Teach them another way by listening and loving them through it.
- Self-care. You will need to fill up your tank in order to be available for your kids.
- Pray. Alone and with your child.
These are unusual times and your child is communicating in unusual ways. It’s okay. This is when you invest in the heart of your parent-child relationship and show them they are not alone. What a gift you will both receive as you move through this season with less frustration and more connection.
Traci L. Williams is the Founder of A Loving Way to Parent. She is known for her practical parenting style. Schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation for more specific assistance. www.alovingway.com