Parenting tips: Handling children's aggression and tantrums as schools reopen
In the absence of school, playgrounds and a lot of other group activities during the pandemic - children accepted that as normal. Now as they start going back to school, we can see signs of social anxiety in them along with communication issues. Here's how to handle their aggression and tantrums
The lifting of the Covid-19 lockdown in the third year of the coronavirus pandemic has seen the best of us resent returning to physical work and children are more than justified to feel overwhelmed with the same transition of resuming school. While adults dealt with the new norm of work-from-home and the job insecurities that followed the varied lockdowns, children too were left to deal with adapting from physical school to a purely indoor and online setup and the last two years have left them confused hence, going back to school has seen many children now expressing in the form of behavioural issues.
In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Khushboo Thakker Garodia, Homeopath, Trichologist, Nutrition and Stress Management Expert, shared, “In the absence of school, playgrounds and a lot of other group activities during the pandemic - children especially the very young ones accepted that as normal. 0-4 is the age when the maximum development of social and communication skills happen and due to the lockdown, the children were confined to their homes with no interaction with the outside world, no school, no stimulation for language. So now as they start going back to school we can see signs of social anxiety in them along with communication issues - This is often presented as tantrums bordering towards aggression. Even older children have experienced the same.”
Managing in a less than ideal situation, endless tantrums, scoffs, yells, sniffles of children refusing to be dragged from their comfort zone, the monitor and attending physical school, has all been an endless nightmare for many parents. Couple it with their professional deadlines, it seemed an endless dark pit and they realised that when circumstances weren’t normal, parenting won’t be normal.
What sets children off?
According to Dr Aarti Bakshi, Developmental Psychologist and SEL Consultant at SAAR Education, “Tantrums occur when they’re irritated by a problem that’s too big for them. They haven’t yet learned how to control their impulses or work out conflicts in socially acceptable ways.” Echoing the same, Dr Khushboo Thakker Garodia revealed, “Tantrums happen because children are unable to accept the change and cannot communicate their needs and feelings - including the fact that now suddenly they have to leave their house, their parents and spend a few hours in a new place with a lot of new faces, so they might get frustrated. So simply put, tantrums are one of the ways that young children express and manage feelings, and try to understand or change what’s going on around them.”
Parenting tips for handling children's aggression and tantrums as schools begin:
Dr Vanshika Gupta Adukia, Pregnancy/Childbirth and Lactation Specialist, Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist and the Founder of Therhappy, shared, “From separation anxiety and clinginess to being unable to sleep and feeling nauseated, shouting at parents, back answering or arguing are all signs of built-up frustration, nervousness and mood swings in children as they try to adapt. Allow for time so that children can gradually transition, help them interact better with peers by consciously organizing play dates. Check in your child often to keep conversations open about their feelings and keep an eye out for signs of them struggling.”
For confident parenting, Dr Aarti Bakshi suggested a few constructive strategies that work:
1. Nutritious meal planning, age-appropriate activity levels and proper sleep impact emotions, as well as ability to problem solve, stay calm.
2. Reduce stress by celebrating successes, no matter how small. Gratitude and mindfulness, long conversation helps a family to connect.
3. Don’t take it personally. A child’s misbehaviour reflects impulsivity or lack of SEL(social emotional learning) skills – not malice.
4. Get realistic expectations about your child’s ability to follow rules and comply with requests.
5. Focus on maintaining a positive relationship.
6. Asking for help is a superpower- “It takes a village to bring up a child” Seek other adults you trust to support when needed.
7. Identify and express emotions to responsibly manage situations.
She highlighted, “Dealing with aggression is very stressful, and stress hurts. It makes us ill, clouds our thinking, and damages relationships. Effective parenting includes setting boundaries, modelling expected behaviour to foster cooperation, settle arguments in a constructive way, and inject daily life with pleasant, loving family activities. Parents need to reorganize priorities. Involving kids in some problem solving supports further. Maintaining positive relations is more important than discipling endlessly. Sometimes you need to choose your battles.”
Adding to the things you can do to make tantrums less likely to happen, Dr Khushboo Thakker Garodia listed:
1. Help your child understand their emotions. You can do this by using words to label feelings like ‘happy’, ‘sad’, ‘cross’, ‘tired’, ‘hungry’ and ‘comfortable’. There are a lot of books that the children can read which help them associate their emotions and it’s feeling in the body this gives them an idea of what they are experiencing. This personally worked for me. I read the book titled ‘My body sends me a signal’ to my daughter over and over for a few days till she understood what she was experiencing and was able to talk about it.
2. When your child handles a difficult situation without a tantrum, encourage them to tune in to how this feels. For example, ‘I just saw you build that lego rocket again without getting upset when it fell. How did that feel? Did you feel strong, brave and calm?’
3. Talk about the emotions he or she experienced after a tantrum when your child is calmer. For example, ‘Did you throw that toy because you were upset that it wasn’t working? Do you think you could have done something else?’ State this as a matter of fact and make sure you are not criticizing your child.
4. Casually bring up your fun experience when you were in school, how you played with friends, the fun, the school bus ride, etc. Just make sure to tell different stories each time and mention it very casually. President shows them cartoons with children going to school and having fun, for example Peppa Pig. This way you are making a positive association with school
5. Tell them about how you handled going back to work - how you handled your emotions and Now that you’re back home tell them that you are looking forward to going again tomorrow and then coming back home again. This creates Association of going away from home and coming back
6. You can also tell them that when you were feeling emotional, you took deep breaths which helped you stay calm. Make them try it just for fun. This way they will know what to do when they feel stressed
7. Be supportive, yet firm. For example, you might say, “I think you’re feeling nervous, but you do have to go to school. Tell me what you’re worried about.” Let them tell you how they feel and do not judge them. Don’t give in to arguments or tantrums. That teaches children that those things will work. Tell the teacher about your child’s worries. Most schools and teachers are experts at handling separation anxiety.
8. Create a reward system. Children love being rewarded. You can give your child his or her on Calendar and everyday they go to class without making a fuss, and put a smiley face on the calendar. On Friday, if they have received five smiley faces, Get them a small toy and hide it and tell them they have a treasure waiting for them.
In most cases the anxiety, the tantrums and even the aggression settle soon. While your child is going through this, it is important for you to be patient and calm because when your child sees that you are calm about the situation, then they feel it may not be as alarming as it seems. In case you feel that even after a month your child is not settling, it’s very important to seek professional help.