Pandemic has been harsh on all of us but kids are the ones who have suffered the most. Their golden period of life is almost ruined, especially for those who are without any siblings.
It’s difficult for young minds to fully understand the ongoing situation. All they understand is that they are being caged. Kids are like free birds who love to explore the world around them.
The restrictions of going out and confinement has invited behavioral issues amongst kids aged (3- 10). The lack of support that these children receive is one of the crucial reason for their more pronounced psychological symptoms. Pandemic has curbed the support system that parents had earlier which has augmented the stress level in them. There is disruption in the balance between, work, home and raising kids. The stress that parents experience is directly or indirectly is transferred to kids which further creates behavioral issues in them. In such situation, how to safeguard your single child from behavioral problems?
What is normal behaviour for a child ?
Normal behavior in children depends on child’s age, personality , physical and emotional development. A child’s behavior may be a problem if it doesn’t matches with the expectations of the family. Normal or “good” behavior is usually determined by whether its socially, culturally and developmentally appropriate. Knowing what to expect from your child at each age will help you decide whether his or her behavior is normal.
However, there is no exact definition for behavioral problems. According to Achenbach et al. It is broadly divided into
“Internalizing” and “Externalizing”.
Internalizing Behavioral Problems
Behavioral problems that are directed from internal like anxiety, sadness, depression, complaining of somatic pains frequently some specific phobias. These behavioural changes are mostly seen in girls.
Externalizing Behavioural Problems
Externalizing problems on the other hand are defined as aggressive, oppositional, and delinquent behavior.
Mostly, boys face this kind of behavioral changes.
“Kids cannot always articulate their feelings and are less developed in their ability to problem solve’ , says Jacqueline Smith, PsyM a psychology extern at the Child Study Centre. “Their stress can therefore show up as disruptive behavior, noncompliance and tantrums”.
Common Behavioral Problems
- Anxious/ depressed
- Withdrawn/ depressed
- Somatic Complaints
- Social Problems
- Thought Problems
- Attention Problems
- Rule Breaking Behavior
- Aggressive Behavior
Preventive Strategies for Parents to safeguard their single child from Behavioral problems
Addressing your child’s disruptive behavior is not only about responding – its also about proactive strategies to decrease the likelihood of challenges. The tools mentioned below can help you to minimize triggers that lead to tantrums :
- Fixed Routine – It helps a child to be more disciplined. Eat, sleep an move. The basics are more important than ever. Ensure that your child is maintaining good sleep, eating healthy and doing regular exercises. Ways to incorporate predictability can include creating a visual daily schedule that your child can reference through out the day. Chalking out a time table helps a lot to little grown up children aged from ( 5- 12 yrs)
- Make time for quality time – When time and resources permit parent should spend time with their children it only helps to bond well but it will help parents to set limits down the road. Playing with them or helping them doing some fun activity or crafts. I ensure to narrate a story or play scrabble with my kids in the afternoon. Over the weekends my husband plays football with them.
- Appreciate your child – Reward or appreciate your child when he/she behaves well . This would motivate them to repeat the action in future too. Many a times repeated instructions as well as explanation, does not help a child to be disciplined. At times Rewards does that magic. Here’s my reward board and this motivates them to do all their tasks enthusiastically for the fortnight gift they would get with more points and stars. Getting more stars becomes their mantra and parents achieve their target by training them to be more disciplined.
- Offer your child a choice – Let them make minor decision for eg. what dress to wear or in which corner to have his quiet reading. Making decisions will enhance their sense of control.
- Breaking down complex Tasks – Breakdown of complex task into small and doable activity. This gives them confidence and makes them feel more responsible.
Deescalating Conflict and Responding to Disruptive behaviour
If your child is upset but calm enough to engage in conversation, conflict can be difused by helping her identify her emotion.
‘Validation’ does not mean approval to negative behavior but only to address the emotion that the child is having during the conflict. Making your child feel heard can diffuse the conflict without any meltdowns. Parent’s attention can be used as an effective behavior management tool. However, negative attention like scolding can feed behavior problem. If the child is engaged in minor misbehaviors like whining, try turning away and staying quiet. The moment he behaves in an acceptable manner , give a praise like ” Thank you for asking in a nice voice’ or ” I will give you more juice”.
Remember that ignoring negative behavior works best when used with positive attention for acceptable behavior.
Self care and managing your own stress
“Love yourself first and everything falls in line”.
How True is that !!
We can make others happy only when we are from inside. A stressed out parent directly or indirectly transfers the stress to their children which aggravates their behavioral problems.
Its important for parents to relax and find ways to distress themselves or else problems just gets amplified.
Create a list of doable self-care activities that can be built to suit your work life balance. A 10 mins morning stretch or reading for pleasure before going to bed or anything else that gives you a peace of mind .
By managing your own distress , you are setting better access to your parenting toolkit in the moment.
Daily self-care routine can have a meaningful and restorative impact.
Additional Resources for Parents
The following books can help a parent who have a child with a behavioral problem:
- Parenting the strong Willed Child by Rex Forehand and Nicholas long
- The Explosive Child by Ross Greene
- The Awakened Family by Shefali Tsabary
- How to talk so kids will listen & listen so kids will talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
Every parent – child relationship is unique and different . The strategies mentioned above is to help parents but they are not the only means to develop a healthy and blooming relationship. A parent has to understand his child before devising any strategy to handle child’s behavioral problem.
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