This year has been so tough, hasn’t it? I am really feeling it now and as an adult I can fully understand what has been going on. For our children, that has been a completely different matter. They have been pushed from pillar to post, gone back to normality and had it taken away again, all with little notice and all with little understanding. I do worry how many children will be affected by this mentally after such a long period of uncertainty and having watched my eldest suffer during this last stint, I have firsthand experience of how hard it can hit them.
Over the course of this last lockdown, I have slowly watched Jake become low, upset, angry and frustrated and it has been a parenting rollercoaster. I have learnt so much about myself as a Mum, about how children cope in stressful or upsetting situations and how parenting isn’t always as straightforward as we would like it to be. This has tested each and every one of us and honestly, if your child has been struggling, I just want to let you know that you aren’t alone but I also wanted to take this moment to help if I can?
As I say, we have been up and down and round and round with Jake’s emotions and behaviour (he is 7). He has missed friends, he has missed activities, he has been fed up of seeing just us all of the time, he hated homeschooling and me being ‘teacher’ and he has felt trapped and angry. All not surprising really. However, what was surprising was the change in him. It has been worrying and it has made me incredibly low to see him so low. I obviously don’t want to go into details as I want to protect him but that doesn’t mean that I can’t try and offer up some advice and tips if you are going through something similar.
This may seem obvious but keeping the line of communication open is so important right now. Even if they do something like lashing out, throwing a tantrum, shouting etc try your best to stay calm and not shout back. Once they have quietened down go and speak to them in a low, calm voice. If they don’t want to talk, that’s ok, just explain that you are there as and when they need you.
Allow your child to have the space away from everything as they require it. Make their bedroom a place of solitude by keeping it neat and tidy and do not allow siblings in there when they need their time. It is important that they have a safe place to think or to reflect.
Children can’t always express how they feel through speech so why not try drawing or crafting to allow them to physically show what is going on. Ask them to draw how they feel, to draw their face or their mind it will help both of you to understand what is going on. Or perhaps if they aren’t ready for that step, just ask them to show a place that makes them happy to take their mind off how they are feeling right now. Go with their flow.
We can tend to look at the negative quite a lot when children regularly act out and I think many of us are feeling far more negative since lockdown which can make something small feel far bigger than it really is. Everybody is frustrated and fed up and we are all wanting that little bit of positivity to get through – your child is the same. So, if they do play up to get some sort of attention, ignore the negative and focus on the positive. Turn the situation around and give them what they don’t realise they need – a sprinkle of positive reinforcement.
Little Notes of Affirmation
This has honestly been one of the best things we could have done for Jake. We were seeing the negative build as soon as he woke up (looking for a fight with his brother, winding everyone up, stomping around, banging doors etc) So I decided that we needed to start the days off better and so the little notes of affirmation came into action. I took some time to write notes that I could leave by his bed each night. Come the morning he would then have something loving and reassuring and kind to read. Simple things like we are so proud of you, you are loved, family is everything, you can be whoever you want to be, go out and have fun today, have an amazing day at school and play hard and so on! It can be whatever you like, whatever your child will react well to. I can promise that it has worked for us. He was so happy to have these special little notes and he has come bounding into our bedroom in the morning to show them to us and to read them out. What’s more… (wait for this)… He even wrote me one back!! Yes, my gorgeous little boy gave me a note that told me he was proud of me! What a breakthrough and what a moment.
Time Just For Them
Lastly, take time out just for this child. Make some time to be alone to talk, to watch a film, to play a game, to do something they enjoy doing but without other family members taking the spotlight. This will give them the chance to connect with you again, it will make them feel special and it may help them to open up. Once you can get them to this point, those barriers will breakdown and you may start to get those hugs back in which will help to melt that anger away.
Something we have also had success with in the past is a little bit of mindfulness after school which I cover in this blog post here. Oh and don’t be afraid to ask the school for help. I have been in contact with ours since before the February half term and they have been a great support. They also have your child’s best interests at heart and they have procedures and activities in place that can help.
I think the main thing to bear in mind is that each and every one of us deals with the current situation differently and we need to tend to our child’s needs in a way that works for them. I am sure that in a few months they will be completely back to their old selves, enjoying real life and all the fun that goes with it but for now, why not give some of these ideas a go? I hope they help you the way they have helped us.
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