Toddler Tantrums: a Pandemic Survival Guide

Raising young children is hard enough. Raising young children during this pandemic is a whole new level of difficulty. Between work, childcare and the worries of a rapidly spreading disease and a rapidly falling economy, parents are working to their limits. No one would blame them for trying their best to keep a little sanity for their children .

Based on the words of some of the parents we have heard from, children also feel the effects of this ever-increasing chaos, which leads to additional problems in their behavior. Young children understand that the world is not safe now – from more frequent tantrums and fights between brothers and sisters to disturbed sleep patterns.

To understand how this pandemic might affect young children, we turned to child development specialist Sarah Keith Bierman , assistant professor of educational psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, whose research focuses on children with destructive behaviors, trauma, anxiety and depression.

In addition to her professional conscientious child behavior, Birman also has a four-year-old of her own, which means she is currently deep in the trenches along with the rest of us. Given her limited time, we spoke to her by email so that she could answer our questions in the few free minutes she had.

Stress can become a vicious circle

“Children thrive when the home is warm and consistent, and parents can adapt to the needs of their children,” says Birman.

When parents are under severe stress, it is more difficult for them to provide a stable environment for their children. This leads to a cycle where children act more than usual, it is more difficult for parents to be patient in their responses, and in turn, everyone becomes more stressed and unhappy.

If this sounds familiar, then you are not alone. There is a lot of work to do with this and a pattern that, when you are in the middle, seems impossible to break.

Put on your oxygen mask first

“Parents need to be kind to themselves,” says Birman. “Parenting is hard work in the most favorable circumstances.”

While it’s difficult to do, Bierman encourages parents to find a way to take care of themselves, whether it’s for a walk, taking a warm bath, or even a few moments of privacy. As she points out, parents need to take care of themselves before they can take care of others; Think about how the flight attendants (who are used to sighing) advise you to put on an oxygen mask before helping the children with theirs.

“We’re all doing our best,” says Birman.

Maintain a daily routine, add some play

To break the cycle of overwhelmed parents and resentful kids, Bierman suggests that parents take a little time each day to simply focus on their child’s play activities, describing what they do as a sports commentator, while finding ways to compliment them.

“It’s kind of a fun way to interact with kids, and I’m not suggesting that parents do it for a long period of time, but even five minutes of this quality attention each day can help kids develop and reduce the likelihood of problems later,” says Birman. “It’s a bit like a vitamin – it strengthens parent-child relationships and promotes healthy brain development.”

In addition to this activity, Birman suggests sticking to your regular routine as much as possible. Regular bedtime, naps, and meals can help reduce anxiety in a child and provide a small injection of calm throughout the day.

Indeed, when it comes down to it, we all need a little peace of mind in this terrifying world.


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