We are currently experiencing unprecedented times on a personal, national, and global scale. We understand that this brings new challenges, including testing our anger responses and frustration levels in ways they have never been tested before.
The closure of schools and restrictions on movement for both adults and children mean that many families face enormous challenges as they try and navigate new ways of living together. Bored children with excess energy not burned off at school, are more likely to play up and cause disruption within the family. In particular, the necessity for parents to home school, or ensure that their child is completing assigned schoolwork at home, is a significant challenge for all parents.
These times are especially hard for parents who have children with special needs. Frustrated and worried parents may overreact to these challenges. Very quickly these sorts of behaviors can escalate into repetitive cycles within families leading to the breakdown of relationships and exacerbation of problems.
What can we do about it?
In this article, I will be mentioning some evidence-based practical tips that you can apply to navigate through these difficult times and help promote positive and cooperative behavior within your families.
Although this article is specifically for parents to promote effective parenting by managing their own anxiety and frustrations, these methods can be applied by anyone, since we all are going through some hard times that challenge our mental health.
Tips for parents to manage their emotions and handle their life more effectively
1) Be easy on yourself and on your kids
As a parent at this time, it’s easy to feel that you have so many roles to fulfill that you can’t possibly perform any of them well. But it’s important to remind yourself that this is a unique situation, a global health emergency that none of us have had to face before.
Don’t beat yourself up if you’re not functioning at your usual standard. This can apply to your quality of work, your upkeep of the home, or your ability to keep your kids focused on their schoolwork.
By going easy on yourself & your kids, and following these tips for maintaining a sense of balance, you can keep your stress levels in check and make each day a little easier for your family — and for yourself.
2)Pause! Before you React in Anger….
It’s the most important & most challenging part - being able to find the calm space in the heat of the moment!
A-) Take deep breaths
You can practice pausing by taking a few deep breaths before giving your response. Deep breathing commands our brain to relax! It sends a message to your brain that, it's okay! I am in control. And helps us to think clearly.
B-) Count 1–10 before responding
These methods take some practice & it’s not going to be perfect every time.
But, it’s absolutely worth it and helps the brain to calm down, think more clearly & respond appropriately instead of reacting out of control.
C-) Tense your muscles and relax
Another simple & effective technique to relax when you are about to blow up !
Tense your face tightly and make a fist. count 1–5. Then relax ! Repeat this process a few times and your mind will calm down slowly.
Different strategies work for different people, so try them all. You need to practise any skill to make it feel natural.
3) Take Turns to Help
In the current times, while practising social isolation, you can share the load with your spouse or the other family members. While you remain busy with work, your spouse or other young and healthy family members can also engage the kid indoors.
Since it’s likely that both you and your spouse are working from home, schedule your and your partner’s work time so that while one works, the other can look after the kids. Asking your spouse or family members to share some responsibilities in the house can be a huge relief to the mom helping her to better cope with these challenging times.
It's essential for husbands and family members to understand that these times of lockdown can be very stressful both physically & mentally for everyone. Sharing the responsibilities can be highly beneficial to take the tension off and maintain a healthy, peaceful home environment.
4) Ease the tension before things blow
It is good to calm down from explosions, but it is even better if you can reduce the build-up in the first place.
Take time to share some of the problems upsetting people and see if as a family you can negotiate a solution.
It is likely everyone in your family is more tense because of the COVID-19 crisis. Many aspects cannot be easily fixed, like lost work or money stress, but others can, such as creating new routines or sharing space, resources, or chores.
Work out different ways to get exercise indoors, like games or apps. Plan ahead for the times that need extra care, like when people are tired, or if difficult tasks need finishing. Let others know what to expect.
And importantly, lower expectations for everyone. What used to be easy might now be hard, and that is okay.
5) Set boundaries
While you are working from home inside a room, you can hang a don’t disturb card on the door (especially when you are doing something that requires a lot of focus or attending an important call), so that, family members know that they need to keep the kids away from your working room. Giving a heads up to your kids before attending a call from the office will let them know that if they need any help , they need to wait or do it themselves…
And with older kids, keep in mind that if there’s any problem, or fight among siblings, they need to solve it by themselves.
Try to hold yourself back, don’t get involved in every small fight of your kids, or try to solve every little problem for them unless there’s a risk of injury or harm!
When kids learn to cater for their own needs, not needing you every single time there is a fight for the remote, it's beneficial for both you & your kids.
It gives you a chance to continue with your work without getting overly involved in small matters that cause an unnecessary escalation of stress and overwhelm.
Kids learn to handle situations on their own & grow up to become confident, responsible, individuals who can regulate their emotions much better than kids whose parents are overprotective towards every small matter.
6) Talk to each other
When the tension is lower, quiet family conversations can help by naming any stresses. Naming things like “this is a stressful time” or “I’m a bit grumpy about work today” helps children process emotions.
Listen to your kid’s concerns, it might reveal something deeper. It is important to actively listen to others and celebrate strengths. Listening and repeating back what others say makes people feel heard, and so does acknowledging shared feelings (“I miss my friends too”). When parents calmly talk about how some things cannot be easily changed, it builds acceptance.
Over time, the most powerful thing to prevent explosions is to notice when anger is building so you can deal with it before things escalate.
You can help children by exploring what might really be bothering them. That argument about a toy might be about feeling sad. Try to listen for the deeper message, so they feel understood.
Calm that sibling rivalry
If sibling rivalry is driving you to distraction, the good news is it does not mean there is something wrong. Low-level sibling bickering is common during times of tension and boredom.
Make sure any sibling rivalry does not get out of hand. You should step in when the volume goes up with nasty name-calling or physical contact.
Acknowledge emotions, help the kids express what they feel, and encourage empathy. Try to help them decide what is fair, instead of imposing your view.
More serious incidents require you to stop the interaction. If there is harm, separate the kids, care for the hurt child, and consider a consequence. Use time-outs to calm things down, not for punishment.
But like all conflicts, prevention is better than punishment. Does one child need more attention, exercise, stimulation, or structure? Do certain toys need to be put away or shared?
Depending on the age of your children, you can help older kids to learn to react gently to provocation. Praise children when they take steps to manage their stress.
Remember, these are stressful times for many families around the world. If we can use this time to stay patient, manage tension and act with goodwill towards our loved ones, our families will be better equipped to weather COVID-19, and many other storms that will follow.
It is important to learn to take care of yourself first & meet your own emotional needs before you can meet the needs of your child !
Don’t underestimate your need to give yourself the time & space to take care of yourself.
Do anything that makes you feel better every day! Taking a walk, listening to music, Talking to your loved ones, Watching TV.
Give yourself the luxury of time first!
8-) Exercise and stay fit
Exercise together to stay active even when indoors. Short sprints across the halls and fun dance workouts are a great way to release energy.
Parents can get the kids to help out and join in their daily workouts or devise simple exercises that they can do together.
Skipping rope, spot-running and jumping are activities that are easy to do indoor
Getting up early and doing some fun workouts every day keeps you active both mentally and physically . It releases endorphins and other good feeling hormones boosting your mood making you ready for the day…
Make it a habit to exercise every single day and see how much that sweat pays off for you !
You will be amazed at the amount of work you can actually finish easily when you are happy, healthy, and active !
9-) Enjoy nature
Being housebound all day can get boring at times. The whole family can spend some time outdoors on the balcony, terrace, or home garden without leaving the house spending some time appreciating the beauty of nature, breathing in the fresh air. Getting some fresh air and vitamin D is vital for proper growth.
Give yourself a break from work and go outside ( terrace or your garden) to enjoy nature ! It's better if you can spend some time alone with nature, breathe in the fresh air, listening to your favourite music or some positive, calming, inspiring videos, that short period of relaxation can work as a magical pill to release all your stress and worries.
It helps you to calm down your mind and prepares you well enough for the next day ! Try it !
10) Practice gratitude & appreciation every day
This point is personally my favorite part and I think each & every person should practice this.
Write down a few pages of gratitude every day. It could be things for which you are thankful to God.
It could be very general, like thanking God for another day, for keeping you & your family safe, or might be specific, as to what good things are happening in your life recently, or what good happened yesterday, etc.
You can include things you like about yourself, your kids, your work, your family, or just about anything you like. Get the pen & paper & start writing. Let this positive energy flow and see how magical your life starts becoming gradually !
You can write down any number of points for things you are thankful for. Start with 10 points. Slowly increase the number of points/pages of your gratitude letter. Be consistent. The best timing can be early morning after meditation, or any time when you are fresh and happy and want to take your happiness forward into the day !
I practice this everyday and believe me, this practice goes a very long way to make your day happier, more fulfilling, more satisfying, more fun-filled, less worried, less stressful and things become easier for you if you just practice gratitude everyday !
Tips for parents to manage anxiety in kids
1) Helping your kids with online classes and schoolwork
The coronavirus pandemic has thrown many of us into the role of de facto homeschool teacher. In addition to all your other responsibilities, you may be finding it difficult to keep your children on track or helping them with assignments.
Keep in mind that this is a stressful time for kids as well and that it’s normal for them to regress or act out in ways they normally wouldn’t. Going easy on your kids can help reduce their stress levels as well as your own.
A-) Join forces with other parents.
Reach out safely or via phone, email, or social media and exchange tips for keeping kids focused and engaged. Depending on the restrictions in your area, you may also want to organize a virtual activity or study group, which has the added bonus of providing social interaction for your child. Collaborating with other parents will help you feel less isolated as well.
B-) Connect with your child’s teacher.
Remember, they’re also getting through this by trial and error. If your child’s school is closed, be honest about what is working with home tutoring and what isn’t. Your child’s teacher has a good understanding of their academic strengths and weaknesses, so they may be able to help you come up with a more individualized learning plan. Talk to your child’s teachers about it.
C-)Create a learning routine.
A routine gives kids a sense of normalcy during an otherwise uncertain time. But you don’t have to go crazy with color-coded schedules if that’s not your style. Just create a general outline that you think you can maintain on most days that still leaves room for flexibility and downtime. If possible, try to designate a workspace for each member of the family.
D-)Set goals — and celebrate their completion.
Since so much has been stripped from our everyday lives, having something to look forward to, can help kids stay motivated. Setting up small rewards, like watching an episode of a favorite TV show, can help them tackle that unpleasant math assignment. Get the whole family in on it. If you all set a few goals and plan breaks together, your kids will see that you’re a team.
E-)Get creative with lessons.
Doing a science experiment, for example, or cooking with measurements, can be a good way of bringing lessons to life. And consider your child’s strengths. If they love to draw and write, now is a good time to set them free with pencils and paper.
2) Dealing with your child’s fears and stress
After watching the news or overhearing an adult conversation regarding the pandemic, young children might get scared. COVID-19 has changed their schooling, friendships, and normal routine, so it should be a top priority to address your child’s fears and reassure their physical and emotional well-being.
If you’re forced to quarantine as a family, your child will be disappointed at not being able to see friends or visit with other family members. Be receptive to this. Explain to them that you understand their disappointment, and you are missing out on friendships and special occasions as well.
B-)Acknowledge your child’s emotions
A lot of times, young kids & especially kids with special needs cannot verbalise what they are feeling. They might show their fears, anxiety, and overwhelm in the form of unusual tantrums, irritability, trying to hurt themselves & others, or meltdowns. It is important that as parents, you should not lose your temper at that moment! Instead, understand that the child might be having a hard time regulating his/her emotions. Acknowledging their emotions, giving them hugs, telling them you understand it's hard for them too, helps your child to calm down and the situation is under control.
Using an emotions chart can be very beneficial to know about how they feel if they can’t verbalize their feelings with words…
C -)Calm down
Teach your child to use some calming strategies when he/she feels the physical symptoms of anger. He/she can try taking deep breaths, drinking a glass of water, pause and count 1–10, or play alone.
C-)Arrange virtual playdates.
Offer an alternative to in-person playdates via the Internet. Set your children up on video conferencing services, like Skype or Zoom, so they can keep in contact with close friends and grandparents, for example.
D-)Give extra love and affection.
This is a stressful time for all of us and we could all benefit from extra affection. Your child will appreciate extra hugs and kisses.
E-)Designate a special one-on-one time.
If everyone is at home with each other all the time, having one on one time with each child is a great way to forge a closer bond. Have your child choose an activity for the two of you to participate in together.
F-)Find things to be grateful about.
Each evening, share with your child one fun or positive thing you experienced that day and encourage them to do the same. It could be a work or school accomplishment, a home repair, or something as simple as witnessing a beautiful sunset. It may sound corny, but acknowledging gratitude and positive experiences can provide a respite from negative thinking and really boost your family’s mood.
3) Practice Self-love
During these times, overwhelm, frustration, stress & anxiety is very common among children which hampers their sense of self-confidence. You can teach your children self-love and gratitude by giving them small topics (that make them feel good about themselves )to write every day.
Example:- Write down 10 points on, what you like about yourself,
Write down 10 points on, what you like about your family,
Write down 10 good habits that you practice every day,
Write down 10 reasons why you like staying at home during the lockdown, etc.
Practicing this simple method every day can be tremendously effective in building up your child’s self-esteem, making them more confident to deal with any stressful situation. Working with so many children and their parents, and from my own experiences, I have learnt that, teaching your children to love themselves from an early stage is one of the best gifts you can ever give to them ! Its the most important life skill they can acquire that will be useful in all stages of life.
4) Engage them in age-appropriate Household chores
Kids love to be of help !
Give your child 1 or 2 simple tasks every single day- that is age-appropriate to him/her and they should complete the same task every day. Appreciate when they do well & when they complete the task on their own.
Give them small rewards like- their favourite dish on weekends, or playing their favourite group game, or letting them watch their favourite movie if they consistently finish the task assigned to them for a week.
Engaging your kids in household chores every day, helps build their confidence, self-esteem, gives them a sense of worthiness & makes them more responsible, confident, and independent adults ! When you share the load, however small it may be, it definitely helps you release your stress, anxiety & feelings of overwhelment.
5-)Meditation and yoga
Practicing meditation and yoga every single day is very effective to help relax the mind and body.
Which is very important during these times…
Make it a habit to get up early and practice meditation for about 15–20 minutes every day. Involve your kids also to do so (if they are old enough). You will definitely notice your mind and body getting relaxed if you practice meditation every day.
Kids will become much more organized, calm and productive when their mind is relaxed.
Show them different pictures/videos of breathing exercises for kids like bhramri (buzzing bee), Kapal Bhati(bunny sniffs) to create interest in them…
Practicing Yoga can help build strength, dexterity, flexibility, body awareness, and self-esteem.
6) Engage more in lots of different games (outdoor games whenever possible). Get creative !!
You can take the help of your child’s therapist or teacher, other parents, social media, Pinterest, Facebook for getting more ideas regarding which games would be appropriate for your child’s age.
You can also refer to my previous article for some very useful ideas on- 20 super easy & interesting activities to keep your kids engaged in lockdown https://abhipsaot21.medium.com/20-super-easy-interesting-activities-to-keep-kids-engaged-during-lockdown-4ae8020f431?source=your_stories_page — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — -
Play is the most important form of learning for children and is essential for the development of all areas of your child !
So get actively engaged in creative & meaningful games with your child.
It will not just boost your child’s confidence, releases stress, but also keeps you healthy and active (both physically & mentally).
To know more indetails about what is the effect of this pandemic on a child’s mind & how you can help your children, you can refer to my article:- Effect of Pandemic on Children’s brain & the role of parents
Effect of Pandemic on Children’s brain & the role of parents
Since the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic, One of the most significant public health measures implemented has…
Lastly, I would like to say that although we all are facing some hard times, it has given us an opportunity to spend time with our family, to have fun with our kids. So, let us make the most of this opportunity by taking care of ourselves and our loved ones, both our physical & mental well-being.
This too shall pass….
Stay Safe !
Stay Happy !
Stay Healthy !
Stay Home !
As part of my work, I handle kids of different age groups with varying needs and varying abilities to cope with stress. And, more often, these children experience a lot more stress than their normal peers due to various physiological and psychological reasons….
So, it’s highly essential for us to understand their needs so that we are able to help them out !
More importantly, unless we can take care of ourselves first unless we are stable ourselves first, we can never help our kids. So, it is our first and foremost priority to take care of our own mental health, to take help if necessary. Then and then only we will be able to help our kids to manage their stress.
Happy parenting to all my readers !
Enjoy reading !
About the writer :-
The writer’s name is Abhipsa Parida. She is an occupational therapist specialised in pediatrics and has been handling kids with special needs since 5 years. She is quite experienced and skillful in observation, assessment and planning intervention for kids with special needs. She uses evidence based practice and is very creative and updated in her approach while handling kids with special needs. She has her own clinic in Bhubaneswar and has handled many kids of different age groups with varying needs.
If you have any queries, you can mail them at abhipsaot21@gmail.