Mom, if your toddler is constantly acting out and throwing a tantrum for no apparent reason – you’re not alone. The last couple of months have been really difficult for South Africans – but especially for families. “More and more researches are looking into the emotional effects and behavioural changes that are presenting themselves as a result of the abnormal situation everybody was forced into. Families are especially victims of this situation,” says psychologist Ilse de Beer.
She explains that families function as a unit and therefore the pressure felt by one family member is felt by the whole family. “Toddlers and young children don’t have the ability to communicate their feelings and most of their reactions will be on an emotional or behavioural level.”
Ilse says tantrums and acting out may occur more often than usual as a result of the tension and anxiety kids are picking up from their parents.
What can I do?
Ilse explains that it’s not so much about what to do when your child throws a tantrum, but more about what happens before and after the tantrum. “As parents have to deal with more than normal stressors and financial pressure, we tend to be more preoccupied, agitated and impatient,” she says.
She has these suggestions you can try to help your child deal better with their feelings of uncertainty:
- One of the best ways to calm young children and make them feel secure is to rub their legs and arms while they’re sitting or lying on your lap. You don’t have to focus on them, just do it while watching TV or chatting to your partner. That feeling of softly rubbing their arms and legs, or scratching their backs have a wonderful effect on calming them and giving them security. Almost like a kitten purring as you softly rub it.
- Play with your little one as often as possible. It takes everybody’s mind of things and they feel the atmosphere lifting when you relax or laugh.
- It’s important to stick to a routine. When things are predictable it makes children feel secure. This includes sleep, nap times, meals and play time. The calmer and more secure your child feels, the less likely it is that he’ll act out emotionally.
- When your toddler throws a tantrum, try not to react to it. The less positive or negative reinforcement the tantrum receives, the better, as your child’s only seeking attention. Make sure your toddler is safe and can’t hurt himself then walk out of the room while they kick and scream. After a while most toddlers will stop and calm down. Some children may carry on quite a while but they will eventually calm down.
- If your child’s a little older, send them to time-out or to their room. Let him know that he can come back when he has calmed down. The less fuss you make over a tantrum, the more likely it is that the behaviour will stop. Whatever you do, don’t give into your child’s demands to stop a tantrum, that would start an everlasting emotional roller-coaster.
Ilse says the long-term psychological effects of the COVID-19 pandemic still have to be determined. “Nobody was prepared for what was going to happen, so no one can predict what the long-term effects of the pandemic are going to be,” she concludes.
More about the expert:
Ilse de Beer is a psychologist, specialising in health psychology. As a motivational speaker, she focuses on equipping people to function better emotionally in their day-to-day life. She holds a Magister Artium in Psychology from the Potchefstroom University for CHE as well as a PhD in Psychology from the University of Pretoria. Learn more about Ilse de Beer here.
Xanet is an award-winning journalist and Living and Loving’s digital editor. She has won numerous awards for her health and wellness articles and was a finalist for the Discovery Journalist of the Year in 2009 and again in 2011 for the Discovery Best Health Consumer Reporting and Feature Writing category. She is responsible for our online presence across social media channels and makes sure our moms have fresh and interesting articles to read every day. Learn more about Xanet Scheepers.