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Behaviour 246Why your child is acting differently right now 

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As the threat of Covid-19 disrupts school, daycare and other activities for children, some parents are noticing a sudden resurgence of night-time waking, tantrum-like meltdowns and potty accidents. Some kids are clingy even if parents are always around, use more baby talk or pout and cry when they can’t have what they want. Older children and teenagers might ask for more help than usual with their homework. They may also be volatile or lash out.

Stress and anxiety can show up in all kinds of ways in children: irritability, defiance, clinginess. But one of the most common responses is regression. Sleep regression and toddler potty training regressions are common, but psychologists say all children (and adults) may regress in times of stress.

“Children are seeking predictability and control in a world that feels increasingly uncertain, and they're taking that out on their parents, which is, of course,  understandable, but also can be quite difficult,” says Dr. Rebecca Hershberg, a psychologist and parenting coach at Little House Calls.

Here's what to do when a child regresses:


Increase "connection" time by being physically close and creating special time together. That could mean getting a child laughing, listening to her worries or snuggling. "Kindness, love and compassion is what children need to feel secure," says Dr. Tovah Klein, director of the Barnard College Center for Toddler Development. "It is very basic and true."

"The number one thing that will protect children against experiencing this time as traumatic - stop their nervous systems from going into fight, flight, or freeze - is their connection to their parents or caregivers," Dr Hershberg says. “Research bears this out again and again.”

Give extra support

It may be tempting to scold children who aren’t acting their age, but experts caution against it. Recognize the regression as a sign of stress and increase your support, even if it seems like babying them or “caving in” to childish demands. The best intervention is reassurance. "You are having such a hard time right now, aren't you? Don't worry, sweetheart. I am right here to help."

Create structure

In this unpredictable time, parents should strive to create some structure to help anchor children as much as they can. "Young children thrive on continuity and routines, doing the same thing daily, or reading the same book over and over," said Dr Klein.

Know the signs

Not all regression looks like whining or baby talk. Some children, especially as they get older, will act out stress by lashing out. So if your child gets belligerent, remember that they are signaling you that they have some tears and fears lurking under that anger. Resist getting hooked on their rudeness. Instead, use your empathy to create emotional safety so they can show you those more tender feelings.

Get moving

When children (and adults for that matter) are stressed, it's tremendously helpful to have them exercise.

Practice self care

Children pick up on their parents’ stress, and it can make them feel unsafe. Young children might not understand what you're talking about, but that makes it even more scary. They absorb your emotion and tone, worry and anxiety.

Stay calm

Perhaps most importantly, don’t panic.

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From an article by, 14/04/2020

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