Stress from social distancing and isolation to stop the spread of COVID-19 can lead to increased family violence at home, Tulane University experts say.
These changes in routine can upset kids, who may lash out and test limits. Stress from bad behavior, along with financial and other concerns can result in angry outbursts—even verbal and physical abuse, said Dr. Charles Zeanah Jr., chair of psychiatry, and Dr. Myo Thwin Myint, an assistant professor of psychiatry.
They offered their insights in a perspective piece published in the July issue of the journal Pediatrics.
Here’s their advice for parents who feel overwhelmed:
- Recognize that stress, anger, worry and irritability are to be expected under the uncertainty the pandemic has caused.
- Provide structure with consistent wake, bed and mealtimes.
- Structure the day with times for reading, exercise, screen time and the like.
- If both parents are home, use a tag team approach to childcare.
- Remember that kids’ bad behaviors probably stem from distress and disruption of their usual routines.
- When stressed, use a coping strategy like deep breathing and identifying things you’re grateful for. If these don’t work, get some rest.
- Calling friends or family members can help head off avoid violent behaviors.
“The economic stresses of the pandemic and disruptions of families’ usual sources of support will likely extend well beyond the period of stay-at-home orders,” Myint said in a Tulane news release. “Recognizing that risk for family violence is high right now may help people be more aware of the signs.”