Rethinking Kids' Aggravating Behavior
By Caitlin Bootsma
Working from home while juggling the kids. Trying to figure out "homeschooling" since schools are closed. Reduced hours at work. Job loss. Worry about illness. These are just a few reasons that many parents are stressed (to say the least!) during this coronavirus pandemic. No doubt, you've had more than a few moments when you are trying to figure out something important for work or your family's future, and the kids do something that interrupts your focus and drives you crazy.
We've all been there. First of all, living together without any breaks during this time isn't easy and we should all give ourselves a little grace for losing our patience now and again. At the same time, we can make a concerted effort to extend that same grace to our spouses and to our children.
Children are also experiencing a tremendous amount of change right now. No extracurricular activities, school at home, more time with siblings, or time at home with no peers at all. On top of these adjustments, they don't necessarily completely understand what is going on, what the future may look like, or why their parents are so stressed.
In addition, while kids have all these feelings, they may or may not know how to express them with words. Instead you may experience them acting out, whether that be through heightened emotions, talking back, or other behaviors. Be aware that they, like us, are processing this ordeal in their own way.
At the same time, spending all day, every day, with your kids, seeing behaviors that are completely age appropriate may be more taxing for you than usual. For example, a three year old making "pretty pictures" with crayon on the bedroom walls, a 6 year old getting frustrated with their school work, or an eight year old pushing back against your reasoning. If possible, take a moment to examine what is going on. While disobedience may result in a loss or privileges or other consequences, it can be useful to question whether our reaction as parents is more about their actions or our own overall stress about the pandemic.
Finally, take a moment to breathe when possible! If everyone is getting on each other's last nerve, consider a set quiet time each day where people go to separate parts of the house and read, listen to audio books, draw, etc. If you have older kids, take a bike ride where you are together, but not necessarily in constant conversation. If you have a spouse or other responsible adult in the house, take turns having some time to yourself to unwind.
May God bless you during these days and give us all patience, wisdom and family unity!
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