It’s been about three weeks now that we started this period of social distancing. The first week happened to be March Break so I think most of the kids, and parents, may have enjoyed the time as we were probably all looking forward to March Break. As the weeks passed our concerns about the health of our family members, loss of income and concerns about paying the bills and the special social and learning needs of our children increased our stress and anxiety.

Family stress increased because we have to stay indoors and share our space with no end in sight. Families are isolated from their friends and extended family. Expectations regarding how the family/household normally runs and the routines we were used to no longer apply. Behaviour challenges may occur. The kids may be experiencing anxiety and fear about the corona virus and how it might be affecting them. They also need our attention. They need something to do and they need to maintain some school related learning. How do we maintain a positive environment? It’s not easy.

Here are some things to keep in mind. When the kids are ready, when they want to talk, parents should talk with them honestly in positive age appropriate language about the virus and social distancing . It is very important to stay regulated, calm, when speaking with the kids. If someone in the family is disregulated it becomes contagious to other family members and the result is no one is able to use the parts of their brain they need to solve problems.

Remember the CPS philosophy that “Kids do well if they can” and if challenging behaviour is occurring at your home there are some things you can do to reduce it. CPS offers us three ways to respond:
Plan A – impose our will on the situation ( should not be our “go to” approach)
Plan C – ignore the problem for now, but address it later
Plan B – collaboratively solve the problem

Although during this forced isolation time we may have to use more Plan C to function, we will have opportunities for problem solving. A very basic description of Plan B follows. Even without formal training try this approach when trying to solve problems with your child.
1. We call this the Empathy Phase. The parent initiates the conversation with a neutral statement and asks the child for their perspective, concern or point of view about the problem. The parent is trying to find out why something is happening and the child’s concerns. The parent should not place blame, offer solutions, challenge the child’s thinking. Just listen to understand.
2. After we are clear that we really understand we move to the next phase, the Adult Concern. Let the child know your concern or point of view and what is important to you. The child may not care or want to listen although your concern is important too.
3. In this Collaboration Phase we begin by asking the child to join us to come up with ideas to solve their concern and our concern. We let the child go first and we can also suggest ideas. When we have a couple ideas on the table we assess the solutions and determine which ones would be doable for us and the rest of our family. As well we determine a check back time to see how successful we have been.

This is a very brief and general description of how to begin using Plan B to solve problems during this difficult time of social distancing.