Coping with Behaviour Changes in your Children
Whilst talking to parents and carers over the past few weeks, some of you have noticed that your children are displaying old habits and behaviours they had when they were younger, or even showing new and unusual behaviours for the first time. So, this could be children who are potty-trained suddenly wetting the bed every night or maybe older children who take up thumb-sucking again or revert to babbling like babies. We call this behaviour regression and it is not a reason for alarm.
Many children are showing signs of regression right now, and it’s simply a coping mechanism to deal with uncertainty and stress. Having tantrums and clinging to parents could also indicate a child has taken a step backwards developmentally, in order to cope. Your child acting like a baby doesn’t mean you’ve failed as a parent or carer. A child may consciously or unconsciously regress in order to get more attention from you or to gain control over their lives. Remember that even relatively normal life changes can mean a return to “baby mode,” like getting a new sibling or not sleeping enough.
People of all ages can revert to old and familiar coping mechanisms when faced with a crisis situation, which a pandemic would, of course, fall under! I know I’ve been reading favourite old books that make me feel safe and secure!
Parenting blogger Dr. Laura Markham in a post on her website said,
“They’re showing you, because they don’t have the words to tell you,” she pointed out. “So summon up all your patience and remind yourself that your child needs your support to cope during this challenging time. You can either reduce the demands on the child or increase the child’s inner resources.”
This can be done through verbal reassurance to your child that they are loved and also by helping them get through whatever the current problem is, like reinforcing that you aren’t angry they wet the bed and then changing soiled bedsheets with them.
Regressive behaviours like tantrums may overlap with behaviours you might not normally have allowed but try to resist the urge to tell your little one off or to “grow up.” Be patient with children who are regressing, as their behaviour shows they’re too overwhelmed to handle expectations they may otherwise have managed in the past. Instead you could:
- let your child know that you understand they are feeling sad, upset or angry. This is the most important thing to do, because without doing this your child won’t get chance to work through the feelings that are driving the behaviour.
- Let your child know you understand that things are different, let them know you feel it too.
- Explain that although things are different, you’re going to keep looking after them and loving them no matter what.
Remember, be kind to yourself. If you sometimes find that your child acting like a baby gets on your nerves, then that is normal; you’re only human. Providing extra comfort to children who need support can take a toll on already weary parents and carers. These behaviour changes are temporary and will soon disappear as quickly as they turned up. When it all gets too much to bear, talk to someone or find snatches of alone time when possible. You can talk to your child’s key educator when she telephones, or contact nursery through Facebook, email or phone. You are not alone, there’s a whole generation going through it all with you!