Whether you call it quarantining, sheltering in place, or working from home, being cooped up can mess with your mood, so imagine what the effect is on your little ones. Psychologists say kids feel it just as much as you do.
“Young children don’t tell us directly that they’re feeling stressed, but they let us know in other ways,” said psychologist and author Eileen Kennedy-Moore.
She says developmental regression is just what it sounds like.
“So they might regress to more babyish behavior. If they were potty trained, all of a sudden they might be having accidents, or if they used to dress themselves, suddenly they refuse to do that. They also might be more ornery, or more weepy. They might get upset about things that they used to just take in stride. You might see tantrums,” she said.
Kennedy-Moore says it’s not just being cut off from their friends and school teachers. A child’s whole life and routines have been disrupted — and they pick up on your stress, too.
“I honestly feel that this is much harder on the parents who are home with the kids trying to be everything,” said Margate resident Jody Cork Corcoran.
Cook Corcoran helps run a foundation with her husband and she’s a mother of two boys aged four and six. She chronicles her adventures in motherhood on her Facebook page.
“There’s always a lot of negotiating, a lot of arguing around getting school work done. But, yeah, we see a lot of big emotions while they’ve been home,” she said. “You know, behaviorally being trapped with their mom all the time and, you know, lashing out a little bit on having to do what’s expected of them with some structure.”
Nicole Shah of Hopewell is a stay-at-home mother of three, aged four to 11. She says she sees the effects of the stress mostly in her youngest daughter.
“It’s been very worrying that she’s been doing so well with the social and emotional development at preschool. Now having lost three months off preschool, probably losing all summer camp opportunities,” Shah said.
“You know, the amount of patience that’s needed for a four year old, I think in general, is enormous, and with all the other stresses it’s hard. But you know the more I’m reading about it, you just have to be extremely patient and not jump when their behavior seems unreasonable,” she continued.
Kennedy-Moore says it’s not unreasonable to expect that you will lose your patience with the kids, especially if you’ve got more than one. She says it’s OK to give yourself a break on that front.
“We don’t want to be begging our children for forgiveness because that’s sort of telling them, ‘This thing that I did was so terrible,’ but we can give a heartfelt, ‘I’m really sorry. And I’m going to work hard to try to make sure that doesn’t happen.’ Wouldn’t it be great if we can do that, it makes it easier for our kids to do that,” Kennedy-Moore said.
It’s the give and take that all parents go through, complicated by a global pandemic that has all of us feeling emotions from unease to dread. It’s a burden you can share with your kids knowing that the brunt of it remains yours to carry.