Ask Ms. Gail

How to Manage Anger and Cabin Fever

Q: I’ve personally been noticing that we’ve all got really short fuses. Do you have advice for how to deal with the close quarters and keeping connections strong even when everyone is feeling a little chippy? More to the point, I suppose, would be for you to offer advice on how to help kids handle their anger and frustration?

(We devolved into fisticuffs shortly after this photo was taken. As one does.)

 I’m sure there are many heated moments in homes around our country right now! Children are showing their stress and fears in their behavior. Also, what is happening is children, like most adults, feel they have no control right now. If a child is having bathroom issues and/or eating issues these are classic signs of feeling powerless. A child learns early they can control their bodily functions and what goes into their mouth. Power struggles are a child “saying” I need to control something. Even if you haven’t noticed these issues in your child, they may still be feeling powerless.

To help with this, give children more power/control through appropriate choices. “Do you want carrots or cucumbers with lunch,” “What story/game/activity do you want to play,” “Should we call Grandma first or Aunt Diane,” “Do want to clean your room after breakfast or after lunch?” Just lots of little choices can make a big difference.

Be mindful of what children are “fighting” you for and is it worth it? When a child says they want to stay in pj’s all day – let them! They want to take a bath at 2 in the afternoon –  let them! They want a sandwich for breakfast and cereal for dinner – great! Pick your battles! Routines and schedules are important and children need them, but… it is okay to bend the rules! If there is ever a time to bend the rules this is it!! It is OKAY!!!

Also, how are the adults feeling, behaving in the home? When adults are stressed, impatient, yelling, disrespectful, anxious, or worried it is more likely children will be too. Take care of yourself! You can’t give your children what you don’t have! If you are stressed and worried and feeling impatient, you can’t give your children patience. This is a great time to learn, model, use stress strategies!

Yoga is a great one and there are all kinds of videos online. Every day do 15 minutes of yoga. End with a brief meditation. Teach your children to breathe (smell the flowers and blow out the candles or if you have a pinwheel make the pinwheel move). Put together a calm area (NOT A TIMEOUT!!!) with pillows, stuffed animals, stress balls, coloring materials, whatever your children might like to calm themselves. If you have a relaxing scent at home have that in the area. Create this area with the kids. Explain what you want to do (create a space where someone can go when they feel angry, sad, need some time to themselves). Ask the kids what should we put in there? What are some guidelines for this area? Then model and encourage its use. Don’t use it as a threat or punishment, but if you notice a child is struggling with an emotion ask them if this area may be an option. Make it soft, attractive, someplace you would want to go too, and then go there when you need to!

4 thoughts on “Ask Ms. Gail

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