Staying home and connecting with our kids is great, but feeling anxious and uncertain about life is not. Kids feel that anxiety as well. In our current situation, co-regulation is needed more than ever in order for the adults and children in the family to keep positive vibes going. Remember, that kids express anxiety differently from adults. A lot of the time, they use their bodies and not their words to express their frustrations and feelings. Adults can perceive that as “bad behavior”, and conflicts between family members can erupt.
I am going to share with you the strategies I use in my family, as well as in my pediatric occupational therapy practice to elicit positive changes in behavior:
1. Self-check – chances are if I am feeling anxious and stressed, my kids will pick up on that (and will act out so much more!). If I am feeling anxious I do breathing exercise, meditate or do a 20 minute yoga video to de-stress . If I am okay, I can be there for everyone else.
2. Active listening- that’s listening without responding or offering a solution. This can be hard, as a lot of the times I want to solve the problem, but my kids just wants me to listen.
3. Empathy- one of my teachers once said something that stuck like glue: “A kid usually needs a hug at the time when he/she deserves it the least”. I love my kids unconditionally, and I want them to feel that even when their behavior is less then ideal.
4. Problem solve the situation together when everyone is CALM. This allows kids to have ownership over the process. To facilitate a discussion, I ask my kids questions, such as:
- What can we do to make your body feel better?
- How can we keep our your body and your sister’s body safe while doing this game?
- How about you make two choices for what you would like to do today, and I will make my two choices?
- This is what happened now (________), what can we do differently next time?
In these challenging and uncertain times lets take the opportunity to make our family units stronger! Compassion, communication and understanding on every level is needed for us to grow, thrive and succeed today and in the future.