There is a lot of talk between parents this summer about children’s behaviors and kids seeming “off.” So we asked ourselves the questions: are they just tired? Is it related to the pandemic? Are they bored?
It is tough to say, but I believe we are just starting to see the impact of returning to “normal.” While kids are resilient, there is no way that going through 16 months of watching the adults in their lives struggle, become isolated from their family, the fear of getting sick, and school did affect their social-emotional well-being.
Kids need interaction and socialization; it is a critical part of their development. They need to learn conflict resolution, conversation skills, and emotional regulation. Without these skills, it will remain challenging and lacking in their lives through the pandemic, and we don’t know what the long-term effects will be.
By keeping that in mind, we can teach, model, and bounce back this generation of children by being grounded ourselves. We must teach these kids how to handle stress, connect and communicate their feelings, and solve negative situations. Our children have watched us as we tried to become their teachers, manage a full-time job as well as all our other obligations.
While this situation was different for each family, we all have our own story of increased stress. Unfortunately, increasing stress comes to increased hormones and brain chemicals, which leads to fatigue, exhaustion, digestive issues, emotional dysregulation, and focus issues.
Think about a deer in headlights; they are fearful, stop and get scared and then run away from their danger. This reaction is from their stress response-the hormones get released and then turn off once they are out of danger. When the hormones turn off, they self-regulate, and all their normal body functions resume normally. They don’t have long-term exposure to stress or the brain capacity to worry or stress. There is danger and no danger.
For us, this is not the case. During the pandemic and as we resume to normal, our bodies try to determine what exactly is normal. What used to be normal now feels scary or weird not only to our subconscious but our children. They are not used to high levels of interactions, busy schedules, and late nights. For a good part of their lives, things were quiet, isolated, and even if you did have some level of socialization, it was not the way it used to be.
So as we transition back to some level of normalcy, think about ways to support your child’s stress function. First, read their signals, as they won’t be able to verbalize. Then, if they seem more tired or emotional, maybe it is time to tone it back for a day or two, give them a day off of camp.
Make sure that you are supporting their bedtime routines and schedules. They are going to need more sleep than usual, as their bodies regulate. Check their sugar and processed food intake. Limit their screen time and make sure they aren’t engaging in screen activities that will increase their cortisol production https://behavedbrain.com/screen-time-2/
Most importantly, fill your cup. Make sure you are eating right, sleeping right, and giving yourself the space to transition back. Even though this bounce back to normal feels exciting and soothing, it is a great feeling to get back on track; however, keep in mind your neurological systems may be overwhelmed, and your brain and body may be telling you to take things slowly.