The Montfort Group

The One Thing Your Child Needs During The Pandemic

As the weeks have persisted with social distancing, I’ve heard from and worked with several parents that have reported their young children have become angry, physically aggressive towards themselves and others, disrespectful to family members and pets, extremely clingy, emotional, or regressing in behaviors they’ve previously mastered. 

To understand why a previously well-behaved child might suddenly become angry and aggressive, consider how the spread of COVID has stripped us as a society of all sense of normalcy. Consider how dysregulating it has been for you as an adult to digest and process the twists and turns of the pandemic while making appropriate decisions for yourself and your family. 

Now imagine you are a tiny human taking in the uncertainty on the faces of the adults that are responsible for your sense of safety and security. Suddenly one day there’s no school, teachers, friends and literally all the familiar environments, people, and routines the child knew are gone.  Imagine knowing something is wrong but not being able to fully understand it, process it, communicate your feelings about it, or have any control over how quickly your world is changing.

Sounds terrifying, right?! 

To develop optimally, children require consistency: clearly defined rules, routines, and boundaries to help them understand what is expected of them. “Consistency in terms of structure and routine provides the limits and boundaries for children that help them to organize and integrate information into their brain and gain an understanding of how the world works.” (Ceder, 2019)

The one most important thing you can do for your child right now is to adhere to a daily schedule.

Structure makes a child feel safe and making an effort to be consistent is essential to raising a confident, secure child (Covey, 2019). A child must learn to understand the consistency of a pattern before they can make sense of variation. “Kids need to internalize, rehearse, and repeat behaviors. When parents are consistent in their reactions and consequences, children know what to expect,” (Covey, 2019). 

A child whose world is organized and structured will respond in kind. If the schedule is chaotic and unpredictable you can expect their behavior to mirror the environment. The more you can create a consistent world that they can predict, the safer your child will feel, and the better behaved they will be. 

Carve out each day with an hourly plan, making the days as routine and structured as possible. Write down the schedule, draw pictures for each activity for the child who is not yet reading, and post it in the kitchen where everyone can see it. Here are some examples: 

I know, as an adult, the same repetitive schedule may sound excruciatingly boring, but it is exactly the opposite of a child’s brain. “Being consistent is time-consuming and requires thought and patience, but it is an investment in your child’s development and will make your relationship stronger as your child grows,” (Covey, 2019). 

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