For those of us in the avalon area of Newfoundland and Labrador, we’re heading into our 3rd week of lockdown...round 2.
Hands up if you’re struggling to meet the emotional needs of your child right now. Keep those hands up if you’re concurrently struggling to meet your own emotional needs right now.
If I had you all in one room (picture pre-COVID), I’m confident that I would be looking at a sea of hands right now. So, what can we do to move towards meeting everyone’s needs? I know what you’re thinking: “There’s no magic trick that’s going to make everything in my house better right now.” You’re right. There’s not. There are, however, some strategies that you can put in place that will, at the very least, improve things. Improvement is good, right?
When a child’s emotional needs aren’t being met, you may see behaviours such as tantrums, aloofness and or uncharacteristic, irrational outbursts. To be clear, there are many reasons why these behaviours may present, but today, we’re focusing on the potential that there could be emotional needs that warrant attention. By addressing these concerns, you may just find that you are spending less time managing meltdowns, giving you an extra few minutes to eat that cinnamon roll in the fridge that’s hidden wayyyy in the back.
Here are three things that your child might need right now:
- To have control over something.
When possible, give your child the opportunity to control an outcome or provide input towards things that are important to them.
Maybe there’s a Google Meet with the teacher at 10am that can’t be changed, but your child could make suggestions regarding how they’d like the rest of their day to look. Ask them whether they would prefer to do the assigned math questions before or after lunch? Ask them what activities they would enjoy doing today and make sure there is time for them to do a couple of those things. By giving your child a sense of control, you’re reducing that sense of helplessness, making them less likely to fight you on the things that you, as the parent, need to decide.
- To feel heard and understood
I know, you’re hearing your kids all day, everyday. “Mom, my computer isn’t working,” “Dad, she took my pencil!” “I’m hungry!” “I’m thirsty!” But, while you may be hearing kids a whole lot during this lockdown, it’s important to make sure that the second piece is falling into place: “Feeling understood.” In order for your child to feel understood, they need to know there is time for you to really talk. This means putting the phone away, getting to their level and asking “How are you feeling today? What were some good things or bad things that happened today?” While I fully admit that there are lots of times throughout the day when this isn’t possible (especially if you are juggling working from home and online instruction), this does need to happen on a daily basis in order for your child to feel heard.
- To know that it’s okay to not be okay
There are days when we, as adults, are not okay. It’s important for our kids to know that it’s normal for them to have a day like that too. When your child says they’re sad because they miss their friends, try not to tell them that they don’t need to feel sad because they’ll see their friends again soon. Let them know that you understand why they feel sad right now and that you’re feeling a little sad, too. Our kids need to know that it’s okay to experience a whole range of emotions.
Interestingly enough, the tips listed above to help you meet your child’s needs may also be worth evaluating to see where the gaps are for you, as a parent.
Are you feeling helpless? What can you take control over to regain that sense of power in your life? Could you decide that you are taking 15 minutes to go outside everyday, no matter what? Could you choose to drink an extra 2 glasses of water every day, because you know that will help you feel better?
Are you feeling heard and understood? Could you start a family sharing time when each member of the family talks about the wins and struggles of their day?
Have you accepted the fact that it’s okay to not be okay? If not, give yourself permission to have a bad day. It doesn’t make you a bad person and it certainly doesn’t make you a bad parent. In fact, it’s healthy for your child to see that we all have days when we’re not feeling on our A game.
Stay well, friends!
Mme Michelle is an Instructional Resource Teacher in St. John’s, Newfoundland and is passionate about helping students with diverse needs thrive at school and in the real world. She started French For Life in 2012 with the goal of helping French Immersion students get the support they need to become bilingual, despite academic challenges. Interested in learning more about French For Life virtual or in-person tutoring? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.