We are absolutely delighted that behaviour expert Aoife Lee was able to provide us with this amazing guest blog as part of our Expert Series. Over the last number of years Aoife has provided me with advice regarding my own childrens behaviour that has always been extremely effective. This blog contains brilliant tips to help you handle the return to school and any challenging behaviours that might come with that.
Aoife Lee is a mum of 3 children, and accredited parent coach and Founder of Parent Support. She has been supporting families for the last 20 years and is an Award Winning Parenting Expert with regular appearances on Ireland AM and Today FM. Aoife offers 1:1 Support Sessions for Parents and works with many organisations giving corporate wellness parenting talks and workshops. Aoife recently launched a Positive Parenting E-Learning Course to help parents build a calmer and happier home. Follow Aoife on Instagram or connect with her on LinkedIn for Parenting tips or if you would like to learn more.
In this Blog I am going to share with you how we can support our children through change, understanding behaviours and how we can approach them to make things a little easier for everyone.
As we gear up for the return to school since prior to the Christmas holidays, little did we know that one year on we would see ourselves in a familiar scenario with Covid-19. Taking stock of all we have been through – children and parents alike, families have been tested beyond belief, socially, emotionally, physically and mentally. Through my own experience with my 3 children and also from supporting many parents for the last 12 months, a lot of children have regressed in many of their behaviours, in particular, sleep, fussy eating, not listening, irritability, potty training, separation anxiety, seeking control through tantrums and so much more. Parenting is hard however Covid has added a whole new dimension!
Return to Education
As our government has just announced plans for our children’s return to school, there is hope that they will be more settled in themselves, seeing their friends, socialising outside of immediate family and establishing a consistent and structured routine like before. There is no doubt it will ease the pressure for all of us. With that, though it has brought a mix of emotions from excitement to disappointment that it’s another number of weeks for the older ones, for the younger children it’s fretting about being separated from parents. The one positive is that the kids will know what to expect from working in pods to the expectations of washing hands as per Covid guidelines.
Up until now we have tried to keep the children busy and entertained, there has been certainly a lot more screen time than usual – this being the same for everyone. The onset of that is seeing all of these emotions through our children’s behaviours, here are some practical tips to help you and your family cope with the transition back to school.
Coping with change
Like anything we all have different ways of coping and managing through change, something I know can be very hard at times; these changes don’t just impact us as parents but the children too and in so many ways. Yes, behaviours can be learned and become a habit depending on what is going on but more often than not there are reasons for a change and the impact of Covid-19 being a big part of that.
It’s important that we are able to say it out loud, acknowledge that it hasn’t been the easiest of times but that there is certain approaches we can adapt to, to make it that little bit easier on ourselves and the children as the focus is now on returning to school
Setting expectations & boundaries
Whether we realise it or not children like to know a plan, what is happening next, down to ‘what are the family rules?’ We can begin to establish expectations of one another from very early on, beginning with routines, how we speak to each other, bedtimes, a plan around screen time once the kids return to school and where homework occurs, sweet treats for mid-week versus the weekends. They are consistently learning from observing and listening.
Children naturally push the boundaries, because they know they can, however the more consistent we can be with our own messaging through following through and being consistent the more they will see we are being serious and fair too.
Giving your child a choice
At the moment, children have little choice or control over what’s happening, they may seek out ways of control through their behaviours, so a great approach to this is handing over some healthy decisions to your child - in the form of offering some choices.
Rather than trying to insist children do something, you offer them a choice between doing what you ask and a consequence for not doing so. For example, if they are reluctant to do their school work but really want the TV on suggest; “when you finish your homework, then you can have your TV time, but not until then, it’s up to you” or if they are on a mission to have that snack before dinnertime; “It’s time for dinner, you can have the snack afterwards or not at all, it’s your choice”.
Name the feelings out loud!
One of the most powerful ways to diffuse a situation or to calm a very emotional child is firstly to keep calm ourselves, I know this can be easier said than done but children rely on us to be in control. Our children pick up on our energy and emotions, they are in tune with us whether it is that we are very upset or doing our best to stay as calm as we can. The next time your child is angry, upset, irritated, frustrated or sad, I am suggesting that you name the exact feeling ‘I can see that you’re really frustrated’. When we listen and appreciate our children’s feelings particularly now, they learn over time to understand and manage these feelings especially the difficult emotions like anger, frustration and upset.
We are all familiar with the phrase ‘adding fuel to the fire’. When you see an argument fast approaching with your child or you are very much in the middle of it. It’s usually at this point that we want to discuss the in’s and out’s, explain, reason, issue consequences etc. We all know it’s unlikely we’ll resolve it there and then, particularly if everyone is upset. If you need to talk to your child about something important, it is a lot more effective when everything and everyone has calmed down – provide space, avoid insisting it is resolved there and then. The calmer we all are the easier we can chat through and resolve it.
Be Kind to Yourself
We all know that this time will pass and we will look back and wonder how we did it all! We have to make significant changes for everyone’s gain and for now it’s about managing as best we can. We are human and taking this time to look at what works best for you in your job and your family is the main thing. Ask for help if you need it, keep communication open at home with your partner or close friend or family member, the children and your team. Take time out to recharge the batteries. Stay safe and healthy.