May 11, 2020


Parenting during a quarantine is something very few of us have ever had to deal with in the past, and it's tough. Kids push the limits all the time normally, but now you're stuck with them, usually inside, and they're driving you crazy. It's a recipe for disaster. So how can you keep things on an even keel at home during this time?

Let's face it. We're all going a little crazy right now. Everything in our world has turned upside down. Parents are working from home. Some have lost their jobs. Kids aren't able to go to school. It's surreal. There's a little too much family togetherness for everyone. So let's tackle managing behavior issues one at a time.

First, and probably the hardest one, in my opinion, is to prevent kids from being bored. I know my kids are having issues with this. They can't play with their friends. They try to stay on top of school, but either get the work done too quickly, or they have a hard time getting motivated to do it in the first place. If you're trying to keep them on a schedule, like from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., that's best. No TV, no phone time. It's schoolwork. And if they truly finish early, they can read or play outside. We're trying to do this at our house. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it's a battle.

Second, a lot of kids start acting out because of anxiety. Kids who are old enough to understand what is going on may be scared that they're going to get sick, that their parents or grandparents or teachers are going to get sick, that someone they know is going to die from this. Be sure to talk to your kids. Give them the facts. There's a lot of rumors out there. And even with facts, they seem to be changing on a daily basis. Let your kids know that if everyone they love follows the rules and tries to stop the spread of coronavirus, we'll be okay.

Next, what do you do when their behavior really gets out of hand? Remember discipline. But do it properly, like you did before all of this. Use timeouts. Redirect bad behavior if kids really didn't realize their choice was not a good one. As Kenny Rogers said, know when to walk away, know when to run from non-dangerous, bad behavior. Ignoring bad behavior that isn't dangerous can teach natural consequences. For example, if they eat two to three bags of chips a day from a multipack and you can't go to the store to get more because of the quarantine, then guess what? When there are no more chips, they'll have to eat the fruits and veggies you probably got at the store on the same trip that you got those chips. They'll be forced to have healthy snacks or no snacks at all.

What about if they do something good? By all means, let them know this. Point out good behavior and let them know when you see that they tried to do something that was hard for them and they were able to figure it out. Kids aren't getting those reinforcing good feelings from their friends right now. They need that from you.

Speaking of getting reinforcements from you, remember you're all they've got right now in terms of person contact. I've got to go into the office and still work, but my husband is able to work from home. The hard part is he is trying to do this full-time job he has while being a full-time dad and a homeschool teacher as well. It's virtually impossible to be all three at once. By setting up expectations on when they can have your attention and when you need to do your job, you can help let kids know that when work time is over, they can have parent time. Now, getting your kids to follow those expectations can definitely be difficult in itself.

Unfortunately, one negative trend that is being tracked by the American Academy of Pediatrics is the increase in number of cases of child abuse. Parents are stressed to the breaking point with a lot of what's going on, and unfortunately that leads to increased aggression towards children when they're acting up. If you find that you are getting to that point, walk away. Put yourself into a timeout if needed. That's what I often do. I literally will go lock myself in the bathroom. Often it's because my two boys start tackling each others. Neither one of them want to stop whaling on the other unless I get involved. But when I do, I just hear from one that the other is the favorite or something along those lines. So I'm trying to learn to just let them work it out themselves. I've talked to enough parents of boys to learn that this won't stop until they're adults and out of the house, and even then it apparently continues whenever they come back home. As long as no one is seriously hurt enough to need an emergency room visit, they need to learn to work things out on their own.

Finally, remember, take care of yourself as a parent. Try to get good sleep. Exercise when you can. Of course, you will probably have to find creative ways to be physically active, but you can always go on socially distanced walks. And be kind to yourself. This is a stressful time for all of us. Remember, if we all do our part, we can make it through this.

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