Yep! We are facing it here too! Regression of the littles. Those that were once potty trained are now pooping and peeing in their pants daily (clearly I’m using all my sophisticated clinical terms in this piece). They are whiny. They are constantly “bored”, they are talking like babies at times, their sleeping and eating patterns are disturbed, they’re looking for that security blankie or teddy that was long gone, and THEY ARE JUST OFF!!
Our littles don’t have the developmental skill set to articulate the grief and loss they are facing. Our babies are grieving the loss of routine, schedules, consistency, sports for the older ones, being with and seeing their friends and most of all, they are missing the adults that to them, “had it together.” I tend to agree with them.
As adults we identify with what we do. When we meet a new person, one of the first topics of conversation is what we do. Whether you’re a teacher, a therapist, a lawyer, or a stay-at-home mom, many of us find that our identity and careers are intertwined. Children are no different.
“I’m a third grader”, “I’m a soccer player”, “I’m in Mrs. G’s class”. They identify themselves as girl scouts/boy scouts, as part of a group of friends, and as students within a school. They too find their identity in what they do and they too are having a hard time dealing with the loss of it all.
So what do we do? Drink wine!! Lots and lots of wine! I say that jokingly but only partially. Never underestimate the power of a destructive coping mechanism. We’ll get to the “Don’t judge” section in a few paragraphs. Hold tight!
Experts say consistency is key. Maintain a somewhat consistent schedule and routine to emulate the child’s day before this chaos. For me, the word “somewhat” is meant to be on a spectrum in this case. You define that for yourself and based on what works for you and your family. As I write this, I am sitting here in PJs waiting to reap the benefits of that cup of coffee I had over an hour ago….and my kids? One of them is watching Frozen II for the millionth time and the other two are on their iPads somewhere. I know they are safe and alive because I hear them changing YouTube videos. Kids love consistency and routine and schedules- it makes them feel safe and secure. It makes them feel like the people in charge know what they’re doing and that everything is going to somehow be okay….and you know what? It somehow will!
PATIENCE WITH THE LITTLES
Be patient with your teenager who stays up all night gaming with his friends and sleeps until 2pm daily. Side note: there are some of us whose kids wake up at 5am daily. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side kids!! And while you might have to rely on controlled substances for this one, please be patient with their whiny voices. They don’t know how to tell you that they too are scared and confused and while they might have LOVED “snow-days”, this one is taking a very long time to end and becoming kind of boring and totally over-rated!
PATIENCE WITH YOURSELF
This is not normal. Nothing about today or the past 6 weeks has been normal. This is mega weird actually. We too are “over it”. That tiny feeling we all got on March 16th of excitement that perhaps this would be a really cool break before the spring break …..yeah- that’s gone. S**t got real- real fast!
LET IT GO (Thank You Elsa for the inspiration)
You don’t have to do everything and be everything during this time. I recently read a meme (and yes I’m citing a meme on what was meant to be scholarly article that quickly became non- scholarly)- The meme said : “Nancy you are not a scumbag for not having learned a new hobby or gained 15lbs of muscle during this time”…ok so maybe it wasn’t personalized to me but the message was loud and clear. Thanks Cecilia for that!
Let it go guys! Let is all go. Breathe. Let them watch the TV, let those iPads run to 1% and yes, try to stick to the routine and schedules because they feel safest that way but don’t beat yourself up if by noon the Math journal turns into a nerf battle base and Mr. Smith’s Zoom class was missed because Ryan just released the latest “toy review”.
And listen!!!! This is not the time to judge the littles. We as adults haven’t exactly been the epitome of appropriate coping mechanisms either. Some of us are regressing too. Some are once again feeling that anxiety that was addressed years ago. Some of us are drinking more, eating more, shopping online. We aren’t exactly expressing what we are feeling either. Like our children, quite honestly, we might not know what to say either. What can we say?!?!?!
I don’t have answers and neither do our children but together we can perhaps navigate this chaos together and come out stronger. Maybe! Maybe not! but we have to at least try for them!
About the Author:
Nancy Azevedo Bonilla was born and raised in the city of Newark, New Jersey where her parents emigrated from Portugal. Throughout her career, Nancy has remained true to her area of interest, expertise and above all, her roots. Being a trilingual therapist, Nancy has dedicated her career to work with children and adolescents in diverse communities. She is currently a School Social Worker and Anti-Bullying Specialist at the same elementary school she attended as a child within Newark Public Schools.
When not working with children, Nancy is a Co- Adjunct field instructor, Field Liaison, and CEU instructor at Rutgers University, where she continues to pour her experience and passion onto students and professionals within field of Social Work.
Nancy is the co-author of two Children’s books with corresponding facilitator’s guides within a series where she focuses on transmitting the message of love, acceptance and equality to elementary readers.
Nancy was the previous Co-Chair for the National Association of Social Workers-NJ Chapter, Essex Unit where she co-led service projects, events, and with her unit, worked to create change on a macro level.
When asked of her biggest achievements, Nancy speaks of her three children, Alex, Max, and Chloe, and spouse, Sebastian with whom she resides in Clark, NJ with.