Across the country, parents are struggling.
The Coronavirus, or COVID-19, has completely adjusted the world as we know it.
And it has hit parents hard.
As if their daily grind weren’t difficult enough to juggle, now they are being asked to work their full-time jobs from home while also supervising and attempting to entertain their younger children and becoming a makeshift homeschooler for their older children.
My heart goes out to moms and dads across the country who are trying to figure out how to juggle this new daily grind.
But my heart especially goes out to you, the parent of a strong-willed child.
For many parents, sure, having a child at home to homeschool while working full-time hours is a lot of work and nothing that anyone wants; but those parents don’t have the slightest idea what it’s like to have to adjust to this new lifestyle of attempting to work full-time and attempting to home-school a strong-willed child to complete assignments that she does not want to do!
That, my friends, is a difficult task. But I don’t need to tell you that.
You’re living it!
And since this Coronavirus situation does not appear to be easing up anytime soon, I thought that now would be a great time to discuss a few tips that will help you, the full-time worker, full-time parent and full-time homeschooler of a strong-willed child to get through the agony of social distancing and the seemingly perpetual online school year!
Choices Are Your Friend!
Overnight, your life changed. And you long for the day it will return to normal again.
But you know what? So did his, and so does he!
He went from a daily routine of daycare, preschool or school with a somewhat predictable outcome to being forced inside, with no physical interaction with friends, loved ones or the outside world. If school-aged, he was suddenly asked to complete schoolwork at home, which may not have been something he’s ever had to do before.
He may be feeling confused about the entire concept of school:
- Is it his teacher who wants him to do this work thoroughly and according to his abilities?
- Or is it you, his unreasonable parent who dares to have the unbearable expectation that he do his best and become the best that he can be?
If I know anything about a strong-willed child it is that when he feels like he does not have enough control, he feels like he is backed into a corner. And to get out of that corner, he’s willing to pull out all the stops.
He’ll come out swinging if he has to!
To survive the day, you may want to include a variety of choices. In other words, find a way for your strong-willed child to have as much control over his day as is possible and appropriate for him.Choices are your lifeline to enduring quarantine and e-schooling with your #swc ! Click To Tweet
Let’s be honest, you know how deflating it is to not have control over your life right now, so you might be able to use that experience to your benefit right now to better understand him.
- All day jammies or getting dressed for the day?
- Breakfast at the table or a protein shake with the morning worksheets?
- Play outside or obstacle course in the basement?
- Quiet time on the comfy couch in the basement or in his bedroom?
These may all seem like minimal things, but to someone who feels out of control, a little bit of control sprinkled throughout the day can go a long way!
The Feelings are There, but She’s Not Going to Share Them With You!
When the first cases of Coronavirus hit my hometown and school was cancelled—initially for 1 week, then 2 weeks, then until May 1 and now for the rest of the school year—the kids started coming into my (highly sanitized) playroom with some pretty big feelings. But those feelings weren’t words that they expressed directly to me.
They didn’t say, “Emily, this whole Coronavirus thing has me pretty scared. What is this and what does it mean for me?” Instead, they showed up in my playroom ready to show me through play how confused, worried and scared they were feeling.
Kids don’t know how to process all of this information. And unfortunately, they aren’t really sure if it’s safe to ask mom or dad right now because tension in the household is high.
The kids I’m talking about here aren’t just strong-willed kids, they’re kids of all types:
- The shy, anxious and quiet kids
- The loud, outgoing and impulsive kids
- The easy-going, flexible kids, and
- The strong-willed, you-don’t-know-as-much-as-I-do kids
Many young children are struggling to understand what is going on and don’t have the language skills to truly verbalize their feelings and confusion. And if this is a challenge for the easy-going, flexible child, it’s really going to be a challenge for the strong-willed, you-don’t-know-as-much-as-I-do child.
To help your strong-willed child, you need to understand that she has some strong feelings that she absolutely does not know how to verbalize. So, most likely those feelings are going to come out in some pretty inappropriate ways:
- Controlling behaviors
- Harsh, critical language towards her closest family members and/or
To help, I encourage parents to do the following:
Talk to Your Child About COVID-19
Children need some information in order to understand why their world has changed so much because of this pandemic. Keeping them in the dark about why their entire life has done a 180 overnight is only going to create more problems.
For guidance on how to talk to children about COVID-19 by age-group, check out Talking to Children About COVID-19.
Offer Free Play
Years ago, at a play therapy conference, I was introduced to a case study of a classroom of preschoolers located in New York City following 9/11. Each day, one of the children continued to build towers and then crash an airplane into the towers. After playing this out day after day with a trusted teacher nearby, the child finally reached out to ask his teacher a question that was on his mind:
“Why doesn’t somebody stop those airplanes from crashing into those towers all the time?”
For those of you who were old enough to witness 9/11, you probably remember that you couldn’t turn the TV on without watching that image at least once, but typically over and over again. For this young child, his lack of experience caused him to think that each time he saw that footage, a new airplane was crashing into a new tower.
To him, the world was crumbling around him—multiple times a day, every single day—and nobody was doing a thing to stop it!
As parents, we hope that our children are appropriately naive. We hope that they know nothing about scary and dangerous situations, and we hope to not have to be the bearer of bad news.
But unfortunately, often times it seems that kids have just enough information to make things scary for them. They may need some input from you, otherwise their assumptions may become frightful facts that replay over and over again in their minds.Kids don't know how to verbally express all of the #feelings related to #COVID19 . #play can help them to make sense of their #emotions Click To Tweet
To know what to share with them, you may want to get a gauge for what is going on for them in their internal world. As I mentioned above, most children are not going to be able to verbalize the stress that is happening in their life right now, but they may be begging for an opportunity to show it to you.
To allow them to do this, you can schedule regular free-play times throughout the day in which you utilize The Narrator Technique and The Emotion Coach Technique to help them to better understand their feelings and to help you to get a more in-depth look into how they’re feeling so that you know what to do to help.
At that point, you’ll be able to know if her understanding of COVID-19 is accurate and appropriate or if things have gotten out of hand to the point that a more formalized effort is needed to help.
Technology Can Help, But Don’t Let It Get Out of Hand!
Let’s be real for a moment:
No matter how you feel about technology, you’re probably using technology more today than you ever did before COVID-19 restrictions were put in place. For most of the parents I speak to, being able to semi-effectively work from home requires some aspect of technology to stop the “Mom, can you help me with…?” every 5 minutes.
It’s very likely that you’ve had to resort to being a little lax on your screen time limits, or dare I say encouraging your child to spend more time with screens so that you can have an hour or more of uninterrupted time?
These are unprecedented times, and there is no official rule book for what to do. You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do for your schedule, the expectations set for you in your work, and most importantly, your sanity!
With that said, I do want to encourage you to know that while increasing technology can make life a little bit easier, overdoing it on technology could actually make your life more difficult.
For so many parents, the request to turn over the tablet, cell phone or video game controller is the triggering event for many meltdowns, tantrums or acts of aggression. Unfortunately, increasing technology during this time can help with keeping him distracted, but it can also lead to more of these outbursts.
Parents often think that their child should be grateful that he’s been given extra screen time and should therefore turn it off immediately when asked, when in fact, the very act of getting more screen time may make turning off the screen when asked even more difficult, not just behaviorally but neurologically.
Listening skills and patience have been shown to be negatively affected by technology, so it is possible that by incorporating more technology into your child’s day, you’ve actually created more hardships in the moments to hour or so following the screen time removal.
If your strong-willed child also happens to have ADHD, the impact of technology can be more severe. For those with ADHD, brain scans have shown that the brain responds to technology much in the same way it responds to addictive drugs.
With that in mind, pulling your child away from increased exposure to technology can trigger a response similar to drug withdrawal, which requires much more than just logical conversation and consequences to combat.
In addition, at some point, your child’s routine is going to return to normal (although those days are seeming further and further out of reach!) and those screen time limits will be put into place again. The more out of hand the screen time allowances become during this difficult time, the more difficult it will be (for both of you) to wean off current screen time habits.
So, my advice to you is to use screen time to your benefit if you have to, but try to only use what you need instead of letting it get too out of hand. I promise, when the sun rises on a new era without the fear of COVID-19 among us, you will be very glad you did!
Share your success stories–no matter how big or small–below so that other parents of strong-willed children trying to survive this seemingly never ending quarantine can learn from others experiencing the same difficulties and have hope to get through the rest of this e-school year!