The coronavirus has pushed us all into a state of extreme stress: what will happen next? Will my family be safe? When will we get back to “normal”? Lots of questions with very few answers just adds to our stress and pushes us into survival mode: reacting rather than responding; consciously or subconsciously.
When in this extreme state, we are a long way from feeling peaceful and centered and those behaviors are mirrored in our children’s behaviors. They react to their outside world and can end up feeling overwhelmed without understanding why they feel that way. In a frantic state, they can exhibit negative patterns and behaviors – not acceptable to you, but you DO have a choice of how you can respond.
What is their behavior telling you? Why does a child talk back to a parent? Most likely they are struggling to express a feeling that they don’t understand and have few skills to process.
As children grow older, even without COVID-19 they experience more stress - social issues; struggling with concentration at school – all of which lead them to feeling overwhelmed. Regardless of the way these feelings come out, we need to acknowledge that it is their way of communicating what is going on inside. There are deeper reasons causing them to act this way.
Parents need to hold space for their children’s “big” feelings and listen to them. Screaming at each other amplifies the stress on both sides and can cause more frustration than solutions. Taking time to calm down will make resolution of the problem more achievable, even if it takes a day or two. I provide online parent coaching both 1 on 1 and in groups, as well as incredible resources to help parents during this unique time. So here is a list of 6 steps you can use to bring yourself and your child out of survival mode and back into grounding, peace and joy.
1. Put yourself first. Coming from a centered, grounded place helps us to respond rather than react to our children, to make clearer observations and better decisions. If we try to release our own stress first, we can begin to take better care of our children’s needs.
2. Try breath work – focusing on our breath helps us to return to the present and ground ourselves before we start addressing the needs of those around us.
3. Observe. What is happening with the children? Are they stressed? Are they missing the structure of the classroom or struggling to learn on-line? While your first instinct may be to jump in and rescue, don’t! Often, children want to figure things out for themselves and knowing you’re close by can give them the confidence to try.
4. Needs & wants. Address the needs after observing what’s going on for them. Do they feel loved? Are they feeling connected, heard or ignored? Are they angry about something? Bear in mind that their obvious behavior may be hiding something else that is causing them to act out.
Needs and wants are different. Their needs are feeling connected, wanted, loved, respected, safe. Wants are just that: wants. And while a child may be upset because they didn’t get something they wanted, take the time to tell them you’ve heard them and why now is not such a good idea.
5. Bringing the child back. When they are in survival mode, they may not be able to hear and understand what you are telling them. Like you, the child needs time and space to calm themselves: the goal is to listen.
Walking in nature is a great way to get back to your peaceful, centered self. Talking is not necessary – focusing on the sounds of nature allows them to reflect on how they are feeling. If they open up, meet them where they are and validate their feelings, even if you disagree with their behavior.
Share with them what you’ve learned about your self-regulation and how you return to your centered self.
6. Self-care. It is hard to address the needs of others when we don’t take care of our own.