Are your children’s emotions all over the place during the pandemic? Do they switch from being absolutely elated to being an absolute mess?
My kids are really struggling too. This whole pandemic is wearing on them, and they were dealing pretty well until we started doing some renovations on our house. We are shuffling around some bedrooms; my husband and I moved into the new primary bedroom, and our boys into the room we’d been using previously. Even though they were super excited about getting bunk beds and having a bit more space to play, some emotions up to the surface.
It is so easy to overlook steps and to assume that our kids have the coping skills to deal with the current changes in their lives without difficulty. There has been so much change and uncertainty in the last 5 months, that our children need supports in place.
“When is this just going to become the new normal for them?” The answer is NEVER. It’s never going to become normal because this is not how humans are meant to live. We are social beings. Our brains are made to connect with and be around other human beings. It’s our primary method of self-regulation. Hence why isolation is considered a form of torture.
Many cultures have some form of tribal history to them and many still do, simply because we’re not made to be solitary creatures. Our families aren’t made to be so small. It’s incredibly stressful for humans. The current circumstances are never going to feel normal or become normal. It’s against our very nature as human beings.
Is there anything we can do to help our kids cope and manage their emotions as things continue to fluctuate?
It’s unlikely that school is going to be a source of stability for most children this year. Chances are that school is going to close back down at some point in the year.
All of this instability is what’s causing our children to be very emotionally volatile. There is so much importance of predictability and consistency when teaching children how to behave because it helps them feel safe. It helps them use less mental and physical energy. The whole pandemic situation is not conducive to that.
Using my boys’ new room as an example:
How could I have made that transition more predictable and consistent for them while STILL moving them to a new room?
I could have written a story for them. Our brains like stories because narratives help us organize information. We think in stories: beginning, middle, end. The story could’ve been about why we’re moving them to a new room, what that process was going to look like, and end with them happily playing and sleeping in their new room. That would have given them a narrative to follow so that they would know what was coming next in the process.
I could have involved them more in the purchasing of the new furniture and paint, by narrowing the choices to 3 or 4 options that I was equally happy with, and letting them make the final choice. This would have given them a little bit of control back.
We could have given them a few days to adjust to the new room before having them sleep in there.
The point is that new, different, not-yet-experienced things make children feel unsafe.
Safety and emotions are processed in the same part of the brain. To ease children into change, we need to give them some control wherever possible. The change needs to be as predictable as possible. We need to try to find areas where we can provide some consistency so that our children feel secure, and therefore will be able to cope with their emotions while using less energy.
If we can keep these steps top of mind (consistency, predictability, and control) our children will be able to cope with a lot less effort, and won’t be experiencing mood swings as frequently. This will allow them to be a lot more self-sufficient because they won’t be clinging to us to try and recover that feeling of safety or compensate for their emotional fragility.
Can you think of areas you can inject some more consistency, predictability, or control in your children’s lives in the midst of back to school or transitioning to homeschool/virtual school?
If you want to continue this conversation, come and let’s talk about it in the Parenting Posse.