Mood Swings Lang Ba Or Does Your Child Have Behavior Problems? An Expert Weighs InBe alert for changes in the home environment that may be causing behavioral issues.CREATED WITH NIDO 3+
This new normal is a huge adjustment for the whole family — more so for preschoolers who have to deal with not-your-typical events at a pivotal moment in their growth and development.
At their age, they should be learning about themselves, exploring the world, and socializing with their peers. Now though, they will have to do these things in their home and in front of a screen.
But as parents, we can’t help but worry. How do we know if our kids are adapting to these significant disruptions in their lives? What do we do if we see them having a difficult time?
These are just some of the questions we asked Cebu-based clinical child and adolescent psychologist and play therapist Peachy Gonzalez Fernando in an email interview. Read on to learn her tips and insights.
How do changes in a child’s daily routine affect their mood or behavior?
According to Peachy, children’s behavior is mainly influenced by “what’s going on inside them — physically and psychologically.”
“Physically, a child’s moods could be affected by whether they are feeling sick, tired, hungry, or uncomfortable,” she said. “Emotionally, a child’s moods may be affected by feelings of worry, anxiety, confusion, disappointment, embarrassment, overwhelm, or sadness.”
“[But they] may not always understand why they are feeling upset, and they may need their parents’ help in figuring this out,” she added.
What factors in the child’s environment affect how they feel?
Peachy listed down four things that will probably influence kids’ behavior and emotions:
1. Disruptions in the daily routine
“Children — and adults, too! — thrive in a regular daily routine. Routines [provide] regularity and predictability to children’s lives, [and] thus lessening anxiety and discomfort because they know what to expect,” she said.
But when routines are disrupted, Peachy said, “Children may become restless or irritable; maybe less compliant and more ‘difficult’ and not do as they are told, and may get more easily upset and frustrated over small disappointments.”
2. Lack of chance to rest
Peachy said that adults should remember that children also get tired, saying that kids “do not have our capacity for enduring long periods without rest.”
“Long days, successive late nights, losing a chance for a nap — all these can result in a child that is hyperactive (actually a sign of tiredness), irritable, or easily frustrated.”
3. Changes in the home situation
The child’s home environment is also a significant influence. According to the psychologist, “the absence of significant adults — or the presence of new adults — may cause temper tantrums, anxiety, and confusion in children, [which may] cause them to ‘act out’ or not follow an adult’s requests.”
4. Your and other significant adults’ mood
“First of all, an adult’s bad mood might cause them to be more irritable toward the children or toward other adults, making children afraid or nervous,” Peachy said.
“Older children may withdraw from interaction when adults are unpredictable in this way. Children learn from the way we [adults] handle our own emotions. If we tend to blow up when we are angry, children will learn that this is a valid way to express anger,” she explained.
Are there red flags or signs that a child is not adjusting well? When does ‘moody’ or ‘matigas na ulo’ become a problem?
“So much depends on adults to ensure that this quarantine does not adversely affect children,” Peachy began. “One important way to make quarantine bearable is by creating a new ‘quarantine routine.’”
As for the red flags, be alert for the following:
- If a child is more easily frustrated than before, having tantrums or blowing up in anger over small disappointments.
- If a child is being more aggressive than before, fighting his or her siblings or playmates more often
- If a child has become “whiny,” complaining more about a lot of things
- If a child is often sullen and unsmiling or has lost interest in playing
Can you share some practical/doable tips that can help parents address these kinds of behavioral issues?
1. Do not always assume they are being defiant or disobedient.
When kids are irritable and angry, they might be having trouble regulating their emotions. “In other words, the child may not be doing this on purpose; he or she might be experiencing discomfort or might just be having a difficult time managing his or her emotions,” Peachy explained.
2. Try your best to remain calm and be there for them.
Getting angry at your child’s “bad mood” makes the situation worse. “It is often during their ‘bad moods’ that children need your calmness most,” she said. “If your child is in the middle of a big tantrum, sometimes the best thing you can do at that moment is just to sit calmly and be there for him or her.”
3. Say what you observe in a calm, uncritical way, and help them identify their emotions.
Peachy suggested saying statements such as, “You seem to be a bit irritable suddenly, just a while ago you were dancing and singing,” or “You just answered me very angrily.” Then ask, “Are you feeling sad/angry/upset?”
4. Ask what’s going on and encourage them to talk about their feelings.
According to the child psychologist, this is important because when kids see that you aren’t upset or angry, they’ll feel safe to reply and will be willing to talk more.
5. Validate their feelings by reflecting on what they said and communicating your understanding.
She said parents can say something like: “Oh, I can see why that would make you angry.” Then, of course, continue listening to the child.
6. Help them find out what will make them feel better.
Parents can ask things like, “How can I help?” or “What would make you feel better?”
At what point should parents consider getting professional help?
“If children have been manifesting these difficult behaviors and you feel that you need help understanding them, or you have tried everything you know and ‘nothing seems to work,’ then it may be time to consult a professional,” Peachy said.
In these trying times, it's crucial that parents learn to connect and communicate with their kids. For Teacher Tina S. Zamora, a family life and child specialist, it's particularly helpful to understand a child's behavior when teaching him or her discipline. Learn more about it by watching this.
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Priscilla “Peachy” Gonzalez Fernando is a registered psychologist, a Psychological Association of the Philippines-certified specialist in clinical psychology, and a certified play therapist-supervisor and board member of the Philippine Association for Child and Play Therapy.
In 2015, she set up her present private practice, Rainbow Playroom Psychological Services, in Cebu City, where she is based today. She is not affiliated with NIDO® or Nestlé Philippines and isn’t endorsing any of the brand’s products or services.
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