Hard truth? Even parents and caregivers who are usually amazing at keeping their cool are having a hard time these days.
It’s no surprise as to why. With social distancing in effect in many areas of the country and people falling sick from COVID-19, millions of families have been asked to shift their lifestyles dramatically. Not only are so many people working from home, trying to make deadlines, and look halfway presentable on video conference calls with the boss, but so many of their kids are home, too, because of widespread school closures. And when everyone’s in close quarters dealing with feelings of anxiety, fear, or even just confusion? Tempers can run hot.
In an ideal world, we’d stay calm, cool, and collected. But the world is far from ideal. So don’t be too hard on yourself if you yelled at the kids or overreacted to bad behavior on their part—but don’t brush your actions under the rug like they never happened, either. Here are three ways you can make peace with your kiddo and move on as a stronger, more resilient family unit.
- Acknowledge you messed up
Apologies are super important here. You might think admitting a mistake to your girl will make her think less of you or question your authority—but that’s far from the truth. It’s your job as a grown-up to manage your emotions, but that can be hard, especially in such stressful times. Offering an olive branch shows that you hold yourself to a high standard and that while you’re not perfect, you care about how you treat people (especially those you love!) and want to do better. Bonus? Your apology will help her be a better person, too, because you’ll be showing her how to take responsibility for her actions in a thoughtful way, while reinforcing the idea that attacking others is never the right way to solve a problem.
- Ask how she’s feeling
Younger children might feel frightened when you yell, while older children might be more likely to feel anger or resentment—but don’t assume anything. After saying you’re sorry, tell her it makes you feel bad when someone yells at you, then ask how it made her feel when you lost your temper. Hear her out, then tell her you love her and that you are always on her team, even though you messed up. Sometimes just talking about difficult feelings—and many people are having those these days—can make kids feel better.
- Come up with strategies to do better next time
Now more than ever it’s important to work together and support each other as a family unit, so coming up with ways to avoid future flare-ups is vital. Suggest some ideas that everyone can use if they feel like they’re going to lose them. From taking a deep breath and counting to five before reacting in a stressful situation to leaving the room for a moment to calm down, there are many actions you can take to keep things from escalating. If your girl’s cooperation has been less than awesome, resist the urge to blame your freak-out on her behavior (you are responsible for your own actions, after all!) but remind her that this is a challenging time for everyone and that you all need to work together to stay strong. That means listening for directions, helping when she can, and being the best she can be overall.
Mainly, remember to cut yourself a little slack. The days, weeks, and even months ahead may be filled with challenges unlike any we’ve seen before. Not every day of parenting is going to be perfect (or even close), and that’s OK. We’re all doing the best we can and hoping for a brighter, healthier tomorrow for our families and the world.