In Staying Home and Staying Sane, I gave parents strategies being stay-at-home parents. Readers asked me to expand the post to include tips when a child is especially active, social, or has other needs.
It’s hard to generalize, so I chose to focus on children who are very active, “oppositional,” or aggressive.
When children are challenging, all the tips I mentioned in the original post are even more relevant. Finding a support group, making time for yourself, gauging your moods, and involving your partner are critical, especially for immigrants without much family.
Here are other ideas that may help:
- Keep the environment suitable for the child. If the child is very active, put your breakables out of reach. There are other ways to teach him self-control as he grows. These kids may need to spend a lot of time outside.
- Stay away from people who give unhelpful advice, criticism, or blame you for the problem. Get together with like-minded parents frequently or at least stay in touch by phone.
- Get help in dealing with your specific child’s issues. In some situations you’ll want to determine whether the child’s behavior is within the normal range. “Experts” can be wrong so don’t discount your instincts.
Parents are often advised to send children to gan (preschool/kindergarten) to fix any kind of problem. Gan is supposed to make life easier for the parent, while the child enjoys increased stimulation, friends, and a more structured environment.
The problem is that many children, even if they appear extremely active, curious, and social, are not ready to be away from their parents for so long. (A standard Israeli gan lasts a minimum of 5 hours a day, six days a week.) Some children aged one to three or even four who eagerly seek out new children and new activities look like they are ready, but they are still counting on the fact that their mother is available nearby.
Parents aren’t perfect and it’s tempting to think that a trained teacher can do a better job. But parents know their children best and they are more sensitive to their triggers, whether fear, frustration, or jealousy. And as much as we don’t want to admit it, sometimes harsh methods are used with “difficult” children in preschools.
Often the gan will not tell parents the whole truth about what is happening, because they are afraid they will be blamed, or that parents will pull the child out. Or they believe that the parents don’t want to know, which is often true.
So consider carefully before putting a young child with behavior challenges into a group setting. Some children will adjust easily and thrive, while others would be better off waiting a year or two.