As a special education teacher and during my training as a school counselor, I worked with many children who were struggling with emotional and behavioral challenges. I know that during this unusual time, all of the needs of these children are falling to their families to address and that families may be feeling overwhelmed and perhaps unsupported. I also know that to a certain degree, all families are feeling in need of strategies to help children deal with the stress and anxiety that results from a global pandemic. Below I have included three strategies that are helpful to all children and then specific recommendations for parents who may be dealing with difficult behavior that has escalated due to the current health crisis.

Let Children Know that They are Safe

Explain to children what you and the other adults in their life are doing to make sure that they are safe. Provide them with extra attention, comfort, and patience and let them know that you are there to listen if they are feeling upset, worried, or scared. Teach them things that they can do to feel safe like washing their hands for 20 seconds when they come home or before meals to get rid of germs or covering their mouth with their elbow when they sneeze. Parents can also teach children how to deal with difficult emotions and the behaviors that may result from feeling anxious, overwhelmed, or not in control. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network lists common reactions to stress and anxiety by age group in a chart here. You can try these three strategies with your kids to help them calm down when they are feeling overloaded: Tucker the Turtle Technique, breathing exercises, and mindfulness like yoga or meditation. Kids may also like to use activities like physical activity (jogging, riding a bike, or playing basketball) or art (painting, drawing, writing, or dancing) to help process their thoughts. Determine a quiet place at home that your child can go if they need time alone to calm down. Let your child choose the location and items to go there such as books, blankets, stuffed animals, or a journal. This should not be viewed as a punishment but a way to help manage strong emotions. In addition, you may want to consider limiting excessive exposure to media or social media that may promote fear or panic.

Use Routine to Plan Your Weekdays

Sticking to the same basic routine each weekday helps children to feel secure because even though things are not as they normally are, they know what to expect. Make sure that there are consistent routines each day for activities like physical activity, sleep, and meals. Let children know what the schedule for each weekday will be using visuals and words to represent each part of the day. Make sure that the schedule is not too rigid and instead involves flexible blocks of time. This will make it easier to stick to and helpful instead of limiting and anxiety-inducing. 

It is important to have consistent age-appropriate expectations during the at-home routine just like kids would experience at school. For example, at school the expectation may be that the class is quiet while the teacher or other students are speaking and that students raise their hand to talk. At home, the expectation may be that there is quiet and no background noise while children or parents are meeting for work or in online classes. Offer kids choices about what they would like to do where each choice works within that time period. For example, “Would you like to go outside and ride your bike before or after my phone call?” or “Would you like to watch a read aloud on the computer or trace your letters while I check my email?”. Always have a plan B built into your routine in case you need additional time to work or things do not go as planned. Have several activities in a specific place like a bookshelf or activity bin that children are able to do independently. You may also want to make a list nearby with words and pictures. For example, “When Mom or Dad are busy I can…..”. Then find activities with your child and list them with pictures, if needed, to help them remember. Another idea is to plan activities that children can do with family members like reading a book together and discussing it on Skype or Facetime. Lastly, consider planning simple but fun family activities that everyone can look forward to like calling family members or friends on a video conferencing platform, watching a movie, having a game night, or celebrating a special occasion. 

Stay Connected

Make a plan for staying connected with friends and family members. Even though children may not be able to play with their friends or visit family members, they can talk with them on the phone or participate in daily activities with them via video chat. Another way to stay connected is to participate in distance learning activities. Most schools are offering meal distribution, some therapeutic services, and online classes during school closure. Find out how these are being offered and make sure that your child is participating in programs that reflect what they would normally receive within their regular school day to the extent possible. Other organizations such as museums, extracurricular activities, and community groups are also offering online sessions. Children may enjoy participating in these activities to explore interests and connect with other kids their age.

Managing Challenging Behaviors

You may want to consider including the following strategies from Vanderbilt University Peabody College of Education within your routine if you are parenting a child who requires additional behavioral support. Detailed graphics are linked below with additional strategy information provided by clicking the links embedded within each graphic.: 

For additional information see the following resources:

~Nina

Nina Parrish, M. Ed.

Nina Parrish, M. Ed.

Co-Owner and Director of Education

Proud mom of two adorable girls. Teacher who has developed an education business that started at a kitchen table and has grown into a thriving small business... Click here to Learn more about Nina.

1 Comment

  1. Anonymous

    Very useful, easy to understand and implement tools. Thank you!

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Parrish Learning Zone helped my daughter with on-line SAT and college essay preparation. She not only scored in the top 90 percentile on the SAT after working with Lauren Cannavo, she especially benefited from the tutoring she received for her admission essays. My daughter was accepted at Notre Dame, UVA, William and Mary, and received scholarships to George Washington University and the University of Alabama. She was initially deferred at the University of Chicago and waitlisted at University of Michigan and Emory University. She eventually chose not to remain on the waitlists and committed to UVA.Lauren also advised our daughter regarding her submission of a 20 page essay on community service for DECA, a high school business club. Our daughter, along with her partner, won second place in her category at the DECA state competitions in 2019 and 2020, and received second place at the DECA international competition in 2019.Lauren was not only a top-notch professional, she really cared about our daughter and was so pleased about her accomplishments. We are so very grateful to her and Parrish Learning Zone.
Marijayne Kruus
Marijayne Kruus
2020-05-11T21:51:37+0000
love the owner. love the detailed feedback. love the attentiveness of the tutor. love Parrish!!!
Jessica Bartels
Jessica Bartels
2019-02-26T22:49:55+0000
My daughter has a math learning disability and hated math. We started working with Nina Parrish and stuck with it for several months. Her grades have improved, but more importantly, so has her self confidence. She now loves going to work on math and will even work on it at home by herself. We are grateful for Parrish Learning Zone!
Laura Ivey Ellis
Laura Ivey Ellis
2018-12-14T14:36:43+0000
Mr. Chaves is an extremely gifted chemistry teacher. It's such a difficult subject--my son was drowning by the time we found PLZ. This was truly a last ditch effort on our part. Mr. Chaves was able to turn that ship around after only 4 lessons and my son passed the SOL! He was able to distill difficult concepts in a way that made them comprehensible and he was patient and kind and gave my son the confidence to succeed. His actual eacher expressed surprise and made a point of telling him he didn't know how he did it but he was impressed. It takes a gifted teacher to get results like that.I only wish we'd found PLZ and Mr. Chaves in the beginning of the school year.
Wendy Zelazny
Wendy Zelazny
2018-06-08T02:05:15+0000
Highly Recommend
Anne Kater Reeves
Anne Kater Reeves
2018-06-07T22:46:05+0000
I highly recommend Parrish Learning Zone. My daughter was able to achieve the SAT score she was aiming for with the help of her Math (Mr. James Slane) and English (Mrs. Lauren Cannavo) tutors. Not only did they help her with practice tests but they also boosted her confidence in taking the SAT. The owners (Nina and Jay) were always prompt in answering my emails. They are very accommodating and worked around my daughter’s schedule (thank you Shiela for all your help in finding available dates for my daughter to meet with her tutors). Thank you Parrish Learning Zone for helping my daughter achieve her goal!
Beth Yankovich
Beth Yankovich
2018-03-23T20:29:18+0000
I can't say enough good things about Parrish Learning Zone. My son has historically suffered from low reading comprehension. I felt he needed a little extra help so I contacted Parrish Learning Zone. The owners at Parrish matched my son with the perfect tutor for him, they developed a rapport almost immediately. He is now in 8th grade and doing well in all his classes. My son is very active in school sports and the staff at Parrish are always very accommodating. They always reschedule with no problems. My son even likes to go early to chat with Sheila.
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Beth Kent
2017-11-08T18:59:11+0000
Awesome! Very structured and student focused - they identified the areas of weakness and turned those into areas of strength in a very short amount of time. I loved the communication from the tutor and the company. I received a specific report of my child's tutoring session including improvements and areas that needed continued work. I received reminders of upcoming tutor sessions - which I needed!! I felt the individual attention and service was worth every penny AND found the prices to be much more reasonable that other tutors in the area. I would HIGHLY recommend Parrish Learning Zone to any parent that needs to find highly competent tutoring help for their child. Parrish is simply the best!
Michele Hiltbrunner Freemyers
Michele Hiltbrunner Freemyers
2017-03-14T15:53:50+0000
An excellent place to take your kids for any tutoring needs! PLZ is a very personalized and hands on service! Both of my teenage boys have been through here for various reasons and I know we will continue to make use of them!
Tammy Elms Mosco
Tammy Elms Mosco
2016-06-02T12:20:59+0000
Masiel Dubois
Masiel Dubois
2015-06-23T22:16:01+0000
SAT Prep Course with Parish Learning is definitely a worthwhile invest !!...My son's scores improved over 200 plus points!!
Janice Boles
Janice Boles
2014-12-02T22:34:32+0000
I am extremely thankful to Parrish Learning Zone. I have a son that is a freshman in college majoring in mechanical engineering. I am so glad that we found out about the Parrish Learning Zone because they were very caring and really worked hard around my sons high school football schedule to ensure that he received all of the needed instruction in order to do well on the SAT testing. It was a great investment for his future. I believe this experience prepared my son for the transition to college life. He was able to attend a top engineering college and to play football there. My daughter is a senior in high school now and was admitted into two of the top ranked public schools in Virginia. She will be a freshman at one of these schools next year. She also was enrolled in the Parrish Learning Zone for preparation for the SAT. I am again thankful to the Parrish Learning Zone and feel that this was a great long term investment into their futures. I would strongly recommend the Parrish Learning Zone to anyone looking for an environment that offers a caring and knowledgeable approach to educating students. They are the best.
Angela Jackson
Angela Jackson
2014-05-15T00:39:39+0000
Andrew Powers
Andrew Powers
2014-02-09T12:32:29+0000

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