Children’s Behavior Through a Pandemic: A Personal Experience

By Jodi Hunt
Children's Behavior

Living through a global pandemic is not something we thought we’d ever experience in our lifetime. Yet, it became a reality so fast we couldn’t plan, and there was little time to even think about how to respond. We just moved and moved quickly, and our children’s behavior changed quickly.

As a business owner, I had to close the doors while still overseeing 85 employees. My husband and I figured out how to entertain our 4-and 6-year-olds while both working from home and providing e-learning opportunities. Emotions in our household were high; we were in pure survival mode. With no script, the kids watched their iPads and played in the house or outside. They learned how to ride bikes without training wheels, but there was little physical activity. Our social interactions consisted of FaceTime with family and friends or socially-distant house calls. I’m not sure how I managed to work 60-hour weeks while the business was closed, but there seemed to be even more to do. The phrase “uncharted territory” had so many meanings.

Our children’s behavior was a mess. My older child constantly picked on his little brother, there were tears for no reason or they just refused to do what we asked. We had a few scary episodes where our older child’s behavior was so concerning that we consulted with our pediatrician through teletherapy. She suggested we try play therapy, and since we were in stay-at-home mode, we tried it via Zoom. He didn’t react well and withdrew even further. Although he is my incredibly introverted child, and I thought he would love being at home for three months, the day-to-day routine took its toll on him.

As the home quarantine appeared to be ending, I prepped my business like it was a start-up. With so many new protocols, I was nervous about my kids coming back to a regular schedule. How would they re-acclimate? Would they not want to go? Would they miss being at home?

We opened our multi-use sports center for swim lessons, gymnastics and camp after being closed for more than 12 weeks. My 4-year-old cried in his first swim class, and my 6-year-old, although nervous, went right in and the tension he was holding for three months just vanished. Being around other kids, participating in physical activities and getting to be a KID again is exactly what he needed.

The weeks that followed were even more amazing. My children were agreeable, getting along, sleeping better and incredibly well behaved. While I enjoyed our “family quarantine time,” it was clear that, although children cannot verbalize all of their feelings, having kids together again and active is so important. I’ve noticed this in the children back at my business as well; fewer behavioral issues, better listening and excitement to be back around other kids.

What we learned during this time is true for any shift in family lifestyle or traumatic experience:

Look for signs – children can’t always verbalize how they feel

  • Kids NEED and CRAVE physical activity whether they know it or not
  • Kids NEED and CRAVE to be social beings
  • If possible, integrate kids back into a regular routine slowly and don’t jump right back in full speed. Consider adding back a few activities at a time.

Finally, as we continue to deal with the pandemic I strongly urge the following for kids:

  • Continue with physical distancing (6 feet apart)
  • Constant hand washing/sanitizing
  • Playing games that do not involve touching
  • Adults near kids should always wear masks

Stay safe everyone, and keep your kids moving!


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