“Since we started social distancing, my seven-year-old and four-year-old kids have been acting out a lot more than usual. They're not doing their chores, talking back more, fighting with each other and just generally misbehaving. I understand that these are difficult circumstances and I want to be empathetic to how stressful this situation must be for them, but I also don't want to create any bad habits or condone disruptive behavior. What should I do?”
What is happening is completely normal, given this unprecedented situation. During this time of collective grief, we have lost not only lives, but also our lives as we know it.
It’s difficult for everyone in the family, including kids who are losing part of their childhoods due to the novel coronavirus. They’re stuck at home, while their parents are trying to work. They lost their routines, contact with teachers and friends and opportunities to practice independent skills. For younger children, it means losing critical sensory and physical experiences, like touching and hugging, jumping around the playground and imaginary play. These experiences calibrate their social skills and regulate their emotions. They really need social feedback from their friends. So yes, some “acting out” is to be expected. But understanding and acknowledging the losses related to this pandemic can help us to navigate these challenging times. Here are some ways you can help them (and yourself) during social distancing.
1. Take care of yourself. It’s possible that your children are picking up on your feelings of anxiety and stress and channeling them into their behavior. While it’s understandable that parents are grappling with difficult emotions right now, it’s important to find time to practice self-care. When we are well, we can take care of others. In order to navigate our family life these days, we definitely need to make self-care a priority.