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My 9-year-old son is not enjoying our home-schooling experience during the lockdown. He is irritable, difficult to engage and is not sleeping very well. Help! He’s not normally like this! What am I doing wrong?
In my opinion, it sounds like your son is reacting like the vast majority of 9-year-olds at the moment. He is having a completely normal and understandable response to the situation he is in. It’s what we at Emotional Logic would call a Shock Reaction.
The changing social situation and the unknown timescale and plan for the future is unsettling for us adults and our children are no different. The COVID19 situation is actually a traumatic experience for everyone (in different ways and on different levels of course). The underlying message when we have a shock reaction is, ‘I don’t know if I have the resources to cope with this!’ Experienced parents and teachers will know that this can cause a wide range of reactions from tummy aches, to emotional outbursts, to aggression, to asking for extra cuddles to becoming withdrawn and so on.
We would teach a very simple approach to this. Help your son to feel listened to and safe in whatever way you can. Spend as much time with him as you reasonably can while trying to do the things you have to do. Patience and calm voices are ideal but don’t be too hard on yourself if you lose it occasionally and raise your voice! Don’t expect your son to suddenly behave completely normally and also expect everyone in your family to have good days and not so good days. Remind yourself that you don’t have super powers! You may an amazing parent but you can’t make everything right over night, no one can. All you can do is be the best that you can be, one day at a time.
Alongside this I would also recommend sticking to your everyday family rules where possible. Children need boundaries and consistency, so if you have a rule about everyone eating at the table at certain times or bedtimes or anything that is part of the usual family routine, I’d recommend trying to stick to that.
Finally, I want to say that we are all struggling with this situation in different ways. I’m supposed to be an expert at teaching people how to adjust to change but I’m struggling at times and my family is too! No matter how busy or brave we are, it is tough for all of us. We all have days where we feel stronger and days when we doubt if we are coping well enough. If you live with another close adult, I’d encourage honest talk and time together whenever possible. If it’s just you and the kids, keep in touch with adult friends or family and talk to them. You can contact the team at Emotional Logic if you like. You may not believe the number of professional school staff who have contacted us to talk about how they are struggling to support their own children at this time.
You are probably doing a fantastic job so don’t be too hard on yourself. Keep going. Your time and attention will make a world of difference for your son. Don’t expect miracles but do have hope as there is always a way to move forward no matter how difficult things are. One day, I hope you will both look back on this time with pride and feel that, as a family, you did everything you could to support each other and that you were actually pretty good at it!
Written by Christiaan Stirling