Excessive time indoors, job uncertainty and financial troubles are all risk factors for increased levels of stress and anxiety and unfortunately, all common experiences during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. It is a tough time for many, but there are steps you can take to help your family maintain a sense of calm as you navigate this unprecedented event.
Here are eight tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) for positive parenting during the pandemic to help keep the calm at home:
- Avoid boredom. Frustrated or bored children are more likely to act out. Try keeping their attention with a productive and healthy schedule at home that balances educational and fun activities.
- Try time-outs. To effectively use this technique, first warn your child that if they don’t stop a certain behavior they will go into time-out. If they are placed in time-out, remind them what they did wrong, in as little words and emotion as possible. A good rule-of-thumb for time-out lengths: Have them sit for one minute for every year of your child’s age.
- Pick your battles. As long as your child is getting positive attention for good behavior, overlooking poor behavior can help stop it and teach them the consequences of their actions.
- Praise accomplishments. Praise good behavior, achievements and nice tries; during this confusing time, it’s particularly important when children are separated from their friends and everyday routines.
- Pay close attention. By reinforcing good behavior and discouraging bad behavior, attention is one of the most powerful discipline tools. Try scheduling special time with your child, and clearly communicate your expectations during this isolation period.
- Avoid getting physical. The AAP deems physical or “corporal” punishment as an ineffective discipline tool. Physical punishment can increase the chances of long-term aggression in children and inhibit normal brain development; it can also take away from your child’s sense of security at home, which is critical right now.
- Don’t forget about yourself. Parents can get so caught up in caring for their children that they forget to care for themselves. Remember to get enough sleep, exercise, eat healthy and take a break. If you have a partner, take turns watching the children, so the other partner can decompress.
- Take a deep breath. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a few seconds to breathe and ask:
- Is the problem an immediate danger?
- How will you feel about this problem tomorrow?
- Is this current circumstance permanent?
Above all else, remember that children are also experiencing heightened levels of stress and anxiety due to COVID-19. They are isolated from friends and restricted from many of their normal activities.
Every child is unique and reacts differently to difficult situations, and some of those reactions may come in the form of poor behavior. Reassure your child that your home is a safe place and encourage them to speak openly about their fears. Compassionate, positive parenting will help bring peace to your home during this uncertain time.