Our founder, Katie, offers advice on how to trouble-shoot school behavior issues during the holidays.
As much as stress can impact parents (see last week’s blog on holiday stress), it can very quickly trickle down to our children, too. The difference, however, is a lot of times stress and anxiety manifests with opposition, tantrums, or defiance. School avoidance also tends to increase during this time of year. It is important to catch these difficulties early and to put a plan in place to address them, so they don’t persist into the New Year.
There are lots of reasons why school behavior may take a turn in and around the holiday season. With teacher conventions and Thanksgiving break making November an inconsistent month, the transition into a new marking period, and the impending holiday break in December, children get restless at this time of year. You may find that the emails from schools are coming more frequently, or you are getting a pretty significant increase in “talking back” at home. These problems are only complicated by the shorter and colder days, which limit the amount of outside play time your kids can have.
I would suggest reaching out to the school to have a teacher conference, and possibly include your child. Resetting goals and discussing their behavioral expectations in a clear, concise manner can be very helpful. Instead of using words such as “good” or “bad,” try to define what you want to see (e.g., “you need to come into school, unpack your bag and sit down to do your work quietly”).
Adding a reinforcement system, with a focus on 3-5 specific behaviors, will help with carry over. We offer downloadable goal charts here. Making these clear behaviors a goal with a daily reinforcement and reminder helps kids stay motivated and in-check. When they start to hear a lot of negative feedback, they hear a negative voice and ultimately think, “If I am going to get in trouble anyway, why try?”
Validate your child’s feelings that things can be hard this time of year. So many parents try to make their kids feel better quickly, but feeling negative emotions are a difficult, but necessary part of life. Teach them how to manage these feelings. Make sure they understand it is OK that they are feeling tired, overwhelmed or frustrated. Instead, of trying to resolve these issues for them, ask them how are they feeling and whether they know why they are engaging in these behaviors.
Also, consider making a countdown calendar to the holidays and remind them that if they keep their behavior in check, they can do some fun things during the break. I suggest scheduling some much needed relaxation and decompression time to help them reset. You also may need to schedule time after school or before school to allow them to get outside and get fresh air, even if it’s only for a few minutes. There is a significant connection between feeling recharged and rebalanced, and time spent outside with movement and fresh air. Make sure you set the example and take a quick walk after school, or before school, with them. The days are shorter and darker, but if you put some plans in place, you will prevent some negative behaviors down the road.
Reading is a great way to start the conversation with your kids about feelings. Here are some fun books to help get conversation going:
If you’d like to schedule a session to troubleshoot your child’s behavior, please call us at 201-857-5380 or send us a note at Wellness@behavedbrain.com.