After weeks of confinement to prevent the spread of COVID-19, kids, teens and grownups alike are probably getting on one another’s nerves big time by now.
So what’s the secret to defusing bouts of pouting, screaming and crying?
Experts suggest parents start with understanding. Children and teens miss the lack of personal connection they’re used to, and online-only encounters are losing their allure.
Young kids respond to boredom and frustration the only way they know how: By throwing tantrums. Teens rebel through isolation, ignoring social distancing or sneaking out.
“Younger children like to actively play together, so to them, an ‘online playdate’ might seem too impersonal,” said Dr. Katherine Shedlock, a pediatrician with Penn State Children’s Hospital in Hershey, Penn.
And although teens interact with their friends online, said nurse practitioner Lisa Culler, “they also crave — and miss — the socialization of participating in school and other favorite activities.”
Here’s some ways to help curb negative behaviors:
- Ignore the tantrum. “It helps a child understand they won’t get what they want from having a tantrum,” Shedlock said in a Penn State news release.
- Have kids take some quiet time. Choose a “quiet time” place, such as a bedroom where a child can go to calm down. “If a conflict escalates, taking a five- or 10-minute break to go to a room, calm down and regroup puts everyone in a better place to restart the discussion,” Culler added.
- Use time outs. They are an appropriate response to severe behavior, such as hitting or biting. Have your child sit in one spot without toys and base the length of time on his or her age (for example, three minutes for a 3-year-old).
- Change the routine. If children are sleeping too long or staying up too late, try keeping sleep and wake times consistent. Have meals together as a family. Keep a schedule of schoolwork and other activities.
- Compromise. “For example, if a teenager is staying up until 2 a.m. nightly and the parent wants a 10 p.m. bedtime, find a middle ground — like 11:30 p.m.,” Culler said.
- Curtail multitasking. Have kids and teens stop what they’re doing and give them your full focus. Listen to their problems and stress that your concern is for them and their well-being.
- Set an example. Stay positive. Reassure kids and teens that the pandemic won’t last forever. Praise good behavior.
- Limit news. Watching news 24/7 can heighten anxiety.
- Keep kids active. Make paper airplanes. Fly a kite. Get a bubble machine. Draw a hopscotch or obstacle course in the driveway. Walk. Run. Watch a yoga or exercise video. Try online science experiments. Build a birdhouse. Repaint or rearrange a bedroom. Teach skills like riding a bike, managing money, cooking or baking.
If tantrums don’t stop or kids turn to self-harm or isolation, speak with a professional.
For more on temper tantrums, head to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
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