Ask Dr. Nikki
Question: Do you think behavioural issues associated with this time will change once life goes back to normal?
Answer: Behavioural issues will change when the stress in our life is reduced, but it will be different for every child. The pandemic has changed the way we do everything, so naturally there will be feelings of grief over what we have lost. For children, that means playing with friends, on the jungle gym or missing child care/school. Let’s be honest, even having their parents home all day is a big change!
Some behavioural issues might be your child has become more clingy or whiny, started sucking their thumb again, is showing baby characteristics you had thought were gone. These behaviours may be ways for your child to express their need to feel safe and cared for like a baby — natural stress reactions due to the increased fear and anxiety in the world. Perhaps your child is having more tantrums, getting upset frequently or talking back. If you think this is related to the pandemic, it is a natural response when you are unable to do what you want or would normally do.
While these are normal and natural responses, that does not mean the behaviour has to be okay for you in your home. Children feel safe with loving boundaries, understanding the rules and what is expected of them. They thrive with routine. They need to learn how to self-regulate, manage their emotions and behaviour so they learn what is appropriate and what is not at home. The best thing to do is to talk, draw or play with your children. Listen to them and try to imagine what they are feeling or experiencing. Children need to feel heard, understood and cared for, just as adults do.
When you listen to them, ask yourself, what are you hearing is bugging them? Try to talk and react to that feeling, not the behaviour. If you feel overwhelmed by a behaviour and yell, try to take a breath, apologize for the outburst and explain to them how the behaviour makes you feel and that you love them even if you don’t always love their behaviours.
Listening, talking, sharing and loving will help everyone get through this difficult time and teach kids valuable lessons like empathy and compassion along the way.
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The content, including information and or advice provided on this site or by Dr. Nikki Martyn is intended for informational purposes only and are the views of Dr. Nikki Martyn to be used generally as guidance. If you have concerns about your child or parenting please see your doctor or health care provider for specific health and or wellbeing concerns they can assess and provide a referral if necessary. If you think you have a medical emergency please call 911 or the emergency services in your area.