Parents — Don’t Let COVID-19 Stress You Out

With everyone cooped up under the governor’s order and regular routines being destroyed, even the best behaved kids can start to act up, getting on your last nerve. To help parents manage frustrations great and small, the American Academy of Pediatrics shares a few tips to help:

Help kids with their fears.

Children who are old enough to follow the news may be afraid, for example, that they or their parents are going to die. Acknowledge the fear, and discuss all the things you are doing to stay healthy, such as washing hands and staying home to avoid germs.

Deflate the impulse to lash out.

Ask yourself these three questions before doing or saying anything: Does the problem represent an immediate danger? How will I feel about this problem tomorrow? Is this situation permanent? Usually, taking the time to answer these will help.

Call a time-out.

This discipline tool works best by warning kids they will get a time-out if they don’t stop, reminding them what they did wrong in as few words―and with as little emotion―as possible, and removing them from the situation for a pre-set length of time (1 minute per year of age is a good guide). Don’t yell or spank, because those are never effective discipline techniques.

Catch them being good. 

Notice good behavior and point it out, praising success and good tries. This is particularly important in these difficult times, when children are separated from their friends and usual routines.

Know when not to respond.

As long as your child isn’t doing something dangerous and gets plenty of attention for good behavior, ignoring bad behavior can be an effective way of stopping it. Ignoring bad behavior also can teach children natural consequences of their actions. For example, if your child keeps dropping his food on purpose, he soon will have no more crackers left to eat. 

Give them your attention.

The most powerful tool for effective discipline is attention. When parents are trying to work at home, this can be particularly challenging. Clear communication and setting expectations can help, particularly with older children.

Don’t forget self-care.

Take care of yourself physically: eat healthy, exercise, and get enough sleep. Maintain connections to friends, family, and others in their community who can offer a critical support network by phone or video. 

“During this time of understandable anxiety, give back and reach out to other parents when they need support,” says AAP President Sara “Sally” H. Goza, MD, FAAP, in a news release. “If someone calls you frustrated about a crying baby or screaming toddler, offer to help.”

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