Raising a child can be one of the most rewarding jobs around. And while it’s exciting to watch children grow and develop into caring humans, parenting definitely brings about its fair share of challenges. Fast forward to 2020 and we are now faced with parenting during a pandemic which presents with even more difficulties. And to make an already stressful situation worse, many children are exhibiting a regression in behaviors that are contributing to parental frustration. Therefore, it’s imperative that parents have support so they can be empathic during this tough time and be attuned to the differing behaviors of their children.
During times of stress, cortisol floods into the brain and puts us in survival [JS3] mode. Since children’s pre-frontal cortex is still developing, stress makes it harder for them to follow rules and they act out to get attention. What’s important to understand, however, is that this is an unconscious process. Since our higher brain functioning is exhausted and we are inundated with stress hormones, just trying to get through the day is enough of a challenge. Attempting to process all of this, logically, is an impossible feat for children in today’s circumstances.
Therefore, parents should expect their children to behave differently and understand that this is the way they communicate their feelings. Taking steps backward in development is likely and can include varying behaviors depending on the age of the child. Younger children may have nightmares, be fearful of social situations, start wetting the bed, etc. Older children and teens may argue more or be quieter, which is important to understand since silence speaks volumes and can be an indication of anxiety or depression. Whatever the age or behavior, however, being attuned to their children’s actions is essential.
For parents to help their children through this, they should become curious about any regressive or acting out behaviors they observe. Being attuned and taking time to connect to their children helps parents understand the behavior in a truer way. Instead of disciplining or scolding regressive behaviors, parents should validate their children’s feelings, so they can begin to make healthy strides to feeling empowered again. By doing this and being empathetic, parents can nurture [JS6] their relationship with their child and reassure them of a positive future.
Since most everyone feels “cut-off” in some way from community support systems, it’s important for parents to have access to resources that assist them in creating a way for their children to regain skills while also nurturing the parent-child bond. The SKILLZ program is a child development course that helps children build skills physically, intellectually, emotionally, and socially. Parents can utilize the in-person classes, virtual classes, or at-home training planners for their children. Each of these courses provides them with the tools to maintain healthy development while also building essential life skills. In addition, SKILLZ [JS13] offers a supplemental course, Parent SKILLZ, that assists parents in understanding their children in these unprecedented times.
While everyone is attempting to navigate through this unique experience, parents feel a more significant responsibility to ensure that their children come through this pandemic with the least amount of regression. Understanding that regression during stressful times is common is important so parents don’t feel as if they are failing their children. Skills will be regained and utilizing resources that aid in this will be beneficial for children and their parents as we all continue to move forward to a new normal.