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Whether they've drawn on the walls or spat in grandpa's face, acting out is always a symptom among children—not the problem itself.“Acting out" literally comes from “acting out their feelings," which means when children can't express their needs and emotions in healthy ways, they will act them out through displeasing behavior.

The key to understanding “acting out" is to see it as a communication driven by an unmet need.

Just as a puppy doesn't purposely provoke us by chewing up the couch, our children's behaviors come as much more natural expressions of their internal states.

It's so easy to jump to judgments like "he's just pushing my buttons" or "she's doing it on purpose." But we'd be wise to remember that when children can cooperate, they generally prefer to.

Here are some reasons that might really be at the root of the challenging behaviors—and some ideas of how to respond to them

1. They're hungry

Most of us can relate to the feeling of irritability that comes with low blood sugar. As with many adults, when a kid gets hungry, he may not even notice it, but automatically becomes crabby and starts grabbing toys from his little sister.

What to say: "Whoa! I can see we've run out of fuel. Grabbing toys isn't respectful. Come, let's return this doll to Celine and you and I will go grab some lunch. What do you fancy? Rice or pasta?"

2. They're tired

Show me the parent who doesn't totally get this one. When kids are sleep deprived or due for a nap, disintegration happens fast. So rather than sweetly saying: "Please Mummy, may I have a rest?" your daughter flings her bowl across the room.

What to say: "You're showing me how exhausted you are! And I hear you! I'm putting the bowl in the sink and we'll go straight to our room for a rest, my love."

3. They need to pee

This one gets overlooked. But when (potty independent) children need to pee they often hold it in and become increasingly flustered. If little Jose suddenly bursts at you with an obnoxious tone saying, "You're not the boss of me," his stressed bladder may be to blame.

What to say: "Let's take a bathroom break and then we'll talk about this!"

4. They're worried about something

If your child is harboring a concern about an upcoming transition—such as moving houses, a new baby on the way, a new school, a new job, a new babysitter ora sick grandparent—they likely will not have the words to express that in a healthy way. Rather, they'll begin to refuse the meals you prepare, to hurt other children or to breakdown in tantrums at Every. Little. Thing.

This is their way of trying to gain some control over their lives. When you have an inkling as to what the worry is, pick a calm and connected moment, such as bedtime or a long drive, and address it head on. Be sure to be honest, but also optimistic and empowering. Don'tt dismiss their worries, but help talk abouth what might happen and what they can do about it.

What to say: "Hey, my love. I can see you're feeling really worried about something. Perhaps it's about the new baby that's on the way? Are you worried that I won't have as much time for you once the baby arrives?"

5. They're afraid of something

Most children experience normal childhood fears such as fear of the dark, monsters or robbers. While they may be normal, they can also be deeply inhibiting and can set them on edge throughout the day. Rather than remaining calm and regulated, your child might act out with anger. Helping him find coping mechanisms to gradually face these fears is key in helping children overcome their fear and not be controlled by it.

Validate their fears but still hold the expectation for them to overcome them, with support.

What to say: "I do not like being yelled at. I can see you're feeling pretty angry right now. Has this got something to do with the questions you were asking me about robbers before? I know there are none, and I want you to feel sure, too.Would you like for us to go through the house with a flashlight so you can feel satisfied there are no robbers here?"

6. They've been influenced by something

If children are watching violent TV shows or have neighbors, friends or cousins who are wild, destructive or disrespectful—they may well try on this behavior. We all unwittingly, imitate what we see around us. When I've watched too much Downton Abbey, for example, my accent skews far posher than usual. So if your neighbor has been reciting a foul-mouthed rap song to your daughter this morning in the yard, you can expect some of that to come through.

What to say: "Hmmm, using those words is not how we speak in our home. I know you might hear other people using that language but being respectful is very important to our family."

7. They're mirroring you

I know this one bites. But when we've been losing our cool, yelling, punishing, threatening, it's safe to assume our children will mirror that behavior right back at us. So when my son says: "How dare you?" it's nothing short of hypocritical of me to shoot him down with, "You will not speak to your mother that way," because clearly, he got it from me.

What to say: "I know I've been yelling and raising my voice. I'm sorry. It's important that we all speak kindly and gently to each other, including me. Can we start over?"

8. They're angry

Perhaps she's angry you didn't let her finish her game this morning, or that you forgot to dry her pink tutu in time for her playdate, or that you said no to a final helping of ice cream, or that you co-sleep with the baby and not with her, or that her teacher didn't give her a warm smile that day, or that her favorite doll's leg broke…

The point is, children have endless frustrations throughout their day—some of which are fleeting and others that are substantial. So when she purposely draws on your favorite cushion, she's expressing just how angry she is. The key is to validate their anger and to empathize so as to allow them to move through the anger and reach the softer emotion beneath is: sadness or fear.

Teach your child to express their anger through words, songs, painting… We love to sing the mad song (below) and eventually break into giggles. The healing comes when the angry feelings are expressed and allowed by you—even if the behavior is not.

What to say: "Yikes. I know you know that cushions are not for drawing on. And I can see from your face how mad you are right now! Being mad is just fine, but ruining our furniture is not. Would you like to stamp your feet and sing a mad song? Let's do it! Repeat after me! "I'm MAD MAD MAD! I want to be BAD BAD BAD! I feel so SAD SAD SAD! That makes me MAD MAD MAD!"

9. They're frustrated

When children hit developmental stages they haven't quite mastered yet, they can feel deep frustration that they often need to act out. Consider the baby who's trying to take their first steps and keeps falling. Or the toddler who desperately wants to feed herself but can't manipulate her fingers just so yet. Or the preschooler who can't write their name legibly despite their best efforts. Rather than politely saying, "I'm finding it difficult to master this skill which arouses deep frustration in me," he swats his baby brother on the head.

What to say: "I can't let you hit! I'm going to hold your hands until you can use them safely… I know you're so frustrated, my love. It's so hard to try something so many times and not manage yet, right?"

10.  They're sad

It's almost taboo for children to be sad, because culturally we like kids to be happy and to make those around them happy. But if a child experiences a loss or that's their temperamental disposition, they may feel deep sadness. They may be sad about things we expect them to be happy about such as a new sibling or graduating kindergarten. So she drags her feet just when you're rushing to get out the door.

What to say: "Sweetheart, your face seems sad. I see that! Would you like to talk to me about it? We must leave the house right now, but we will have plenty of time for me to listen in the car. Let me help you with your shoes and let's hold hands to the car, ok?"

11.  They're curious

Often what we perceive as acting out is really just exploration. Children are infinitely curious and learn through hands on, sensory experience. They need to touch, climb, throw, push, pull, spin things. So if your son just dumped all of the clean, folded laundry down the stairs, that may be his misguided curiosity at play.

What to say: "Oh no! That laundry is clean, so it's not for throwing. I will put it on the bed next time. But I can see you want to throw things! Let me pass you this basket of teddy bears and you can throw away."

12.  They didn't know it's not allowed

Sometimes kids simply don't realize something isn't allowed. Even though it was painfully obvious to you (or perhaps because of this) you never made it clear to them. So if your daughter just sprayed shaving cream all over the bathroom, she may have thought this was your plan all along. Why else would you leave the shaving cream out?

What to say: "Whoops! Shaving cream is not for playing with! Silly me. I should have left it in the cupboard. Next time please do not use this as a game. Let's clean up. I'll grab the mop. Do you want to spray or wipe?"

13.  They don't understand the logic behind the limit

Setting limits is important and sometimes kids do need to simply "do as we say" without further explanation. But those instances are rare. For the most part, we'll garner far more collaboration (rather than blind obedience) when children understand our reasoning behind the limits. Sometimes if we've too often failed to provide the logic, children may be moved to rebel. If they feel the rules don't make sense, they may go ahead and grab the chocolate despite your repeated assertions that's not allowed.

What to say: "Sam, I was very clear in asking you not to eat this chocolate and I'm disappointed that you have anyway. The reason I asked you not to was because this is for a gift for Marcy, it was not for us! I should have explained that, but I do expect you to honor my requests even when you don't understand them. We'll have to go and buy some more chocolate to replace this one. Let's get your money jar and you can contribute to the purchase."

14.   They're over-controlled

In a home that's run like a tight ship with a lot of control and fear-based parenting, many children will act out. Under the pressures of high expectations and low support, children begin to feel like there's "nothing to lose." They resent feeling controlled and scramble to find ways to exert their autonomy and sovereignty. That's one reason she why she may sneak around, lie or rebel. Lying is a normal developmental stage in children around the age of 5, but it can also be the sign of too much parental control—such as if she's afraid you'll come down on her like a ton of bricks, so she doesn't want to share the truth.

What to say: "Honey, it seems you've lied to me. It's really important that we have integrity and an honest, open relationship in our home. Were you afraid that I would be very angry or punish you if you were honest?"

15.  They're confused about limits 

When we've been confused about a limit ourselves or unclear in setting them, children will push back and act out. They've received the message from us that this is a "free for all" or an "undefined territory" and is up for grabs. So if you sometimes let them use the iPad first thing in the morning and sometimes don't, then you can expect them to try their luck.

What to say: "I'm sorry, I can see the confusion here is my fault as I've been unclear about the rules about the iPad in the morning. Let's have a family meeting and discuss when and how we use it and who's responsible for charging it. We can all contribute ideas and agree on what to do when someone breaks these rules. Then we'll all sign it and hang up the rules for all to see."

16.  They're agitated by something

Many children have sensitivities that can go undetected but manifest in grumpy behavior. Food intolerances such as a sensitivity to dairy or gluten can lead to fussy, testy children who appear to be acting out. A child who is sensorily sensitive to labels in their shirt, tight socks or too much noise can be more likely to tantrum, shut down, make demands or yell rudely.

What to say: "I can see you're uncomfortable. Yelling like that hurst my ears. Can you help me figure out what's bothering you? And then I can adjust it for you. Perhaps it's too noisy in here? Let's try going outside."

17.  There's inconsistency

For most families a certain measure of predictability breeds security. And security helps children (us all) to regulate. If a child is picked up by a different adult each day, has dinner at a different time each day, has a bedtime at a different time each day—you get the picture—they're likely to feel unsafe or unsure of what comes next.

When limits are inconsistent, too, then they're really not sure where they stand. So when she becomes impossible at bedtime, demanding yet another drink, book or trip to the bathroom, this may actually be a plea for more predictability in her life.

What to say: "It's really time to say goodnight now my love. We're done with the books. Let's talk about exactly what's happening tomorrow, okay? In the morning you'll wake up and then daddy will give you breakfast..."

18.  They're over stressed

Just like all people, if children are under too much stress they will absolutely act out or self damage, which is far worse. Unfortunately, today, children are under a lot of unnecessary stress to perform academically from the youngest of ages.

Children need long stretches of uninterrupted, independent play every single day, they need time in nature and time to rest. If they're not getting these de-stressors, and their every day is scheduled with goal-driven, measurable activities that are then evaluated by adults such as grades, then they're probably under a lot of stress. It's no wonder he's obnoxiously slamming doors.

What to say: "Can I come in? You just slammed that door pretty hard! I know you must be feeling very run down with all the homework you've got. Plus the game on Saturday. And piano practice. Still, please respect our home. You can always tell me when you're stressed and I'll get it. Hey, I have an idea, can we take this evening off? I'll write you a note for your teacher. Let's go play Monopoly."

19.  They don't have the words

Especially in the early years, toddlers may simply not have the words we so desperately want for them to use. That's why when parents yell for them to use their words, it usually falls on deaf ears. They can't. Even if the appropriate words exist in their vocabulary, under the stress of the moment they can't muster them.

As the adults, we can help to find the appropriate words for them and model for them how they might be used. So if you're child lashes out when a friend grabs a doll, use it as a language learning opportunity.

What to say: "Uh oh! That hurt Kiley! I do not want you to hit. Are you trying to tell her you're not done with the doll? Let's check if she's ok and then you can tell her, "I'm not done with the doll, Kiley… Hey, Kiley, are you ok?"

20.  They're overstimulated

Whether there's too much noise, too many people, too many toys, too much novelty, light, excitement, attention, colors, sensations… an overload of stimulation can cause a really visceral reaction in anyone. So when you were so excited to take your 3-year-old to the fair, but they ended up tantruming through the entire thing because they wanted another ride on the Tea Cups, you can bet overstimulation is at the root.

What to say: "I can see we're feeling a bit overwhelmed! And there is a lot going on here! Come, let's go over here to this quiet corner and sit down together for a few minutes. You can put your head on my shoulder and close your eyes. We'll calm our bodies down together."

21.  They're trying to get connection

If we haven't had much time for our little ones, they may be feeling cast aside or left behind. In a somewhat misplaced bid for connection, they may break something, yell or hurt someone. And it works for attention. But the fundamental thing to realize is that it's not about attention, it's about connection. They want our eye contact, our touch, our open hearts—not the stern look on our face telling them off. But if they can't get the former, they'll settle for the latter.

What to say: "Hey! I think you might have run out of hugs… Can I fill you up? Do you know how I can tell? Because you called me "stupid." That doesn't feel good to me and it shows me you must be completely out of hugs. Come over here!"

22.  They're questioning your leadership

If you're a shaky, unconfident leader in your family, you might experience increased limit-testing and push back. So when you say it's time to go, you might experience a lot of dawdling or even just outright ignoring.

What to say: "I can see I didn't make myself clear the first time. I do not like being ignored. We're going. Shoes on, now, please!"

23.  They're not sure what's expected of them

Sometimes your child might behave inappropriately simply because they don't know what they're supposed to be doing. Especially in a new situation, or with new people, they may shy away, or—conversely—become too loud and demand all of the spotlight. They may say things that appear rude or unseeingly, simply because no one's ever told them that it's impolite to point or that we don't make comments about people's bodies.

What to say: "While we're visiting Uncle Tom, we're expected to talk in soft voices. Can you use a soft voice with me?"

24.  They want to be seen

Acting out, ultimately, can be a bid for being seen, valued and accepted as we are. It can be as though our child is saying, "Hey, Mum, will you love me when I do this?!"

What to say: "I can see you're trying to do the worst thing you can think of! But I will love you no matter what you do, you can't escape my love."

When children act out it can be tempting to chalk it up to “bad behavior," “demanding attention" or an “annoying mood." But all behavior is a communication.

A request for help in meeting an unmet need. The need for unconditional love, for security and safety, for clarity and information. Usually when we answer the root cause, the symptom of the unpleasant behavior becomes irrelevant and fades away.

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As a mid-Spring holiday, we never knew exactly what to expect from the weather on Easter when I was growing up in Michigan: Would we get to wear our new Sunday dresses without coats? Or would we be hunting for eggs while wearing snowsuits?

Although what the temperature had in store was really anyone's guess, there were a few special traditions my sister and I could always depend on—and it won't come as a surprise to anyone who knows me that my favorite memories revolved around food. After all, experts say memories are strongest when they tie senses together, which certainly seems to be true when it comes to holiday meals that involve the sounds of laughter and the taste of amazing food.

Now that I'm a parent, I'm experiencing Easter anew as my children discover the small delights of chocolate, pre-church brunch and a multi-generational dinner. While I still look forward to the treats and feasting, I'm realizing now that the sweetest thing of all is how these traditions bring our family together around one table.

For us, the build-up to Easter eats is an extended event. Last year's prep work began weeks in advance when my 3-year-old and I sat down to plan the brunch menu, which involved the interesting suggestion of "green eggs and ham." When the big morning rolled around, his eyes grew to the size of Easter eggs out of pure joy when the dish was placed on the table.

This year, rather than letting the day come and go in a flash, we are creating traditions that span weeks and allow even the littlest members of the family to feel involved.

Still, as much as I love enlisting my children's help, I also relish the opportunity to create some magic of my own with their Easter baskets—even if the Easter Bunny gets the credit. This year, I'm excited to really personalize the baskets by getting an "adoptable" plush unicorn for my daughter and the Kinder Chocolate Mini Eggs that my son hasn't stopped talking about since seeing at the store. (You can bet this mama is stocking up on some for herself, too.)

At the same time, Easter as a parent has opened my eyes to how much effort can be required...

There is the selection of the right Easter outfits for picture-perfect moments.

There is the styling of custom Easter baskets.

There is the filling of plastic eggs and strategic placement of them throughout the yard.

But when the cameras are put away and we all join together around the table for the family dinner at the end of the day, I can finally take a deep breath and really enjoy—especially with the knowledge that doing the dishes is my husband's job.

This article was sponsored by Kinder. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.


Our Partners

The world feels so heavy right now.

Moments throughout the day I feel like there's an elephant sitting on my chest. Pushing down, into my heart, breaking it piece by piece.

Like there's a water fountain behind my eyes. Forcing water out of my face in the form of tears rolling down my cheeks.

Like there's a ticker in my mind wondering when the next freak out will come. Counting down the seconds to panic...

What will be next?

This weekend, I was scrolling through social media when I saw my sister tagged me in a Tiger King meme that made me laugh so hard I nearly peed myself.

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And then I laughed some more. Thinking of how ridiculous that show is and how ridiculous life feels right now. Like how my 2-year-old keeps running around without her diaper on and how Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and Airheads have basically become a food group for me at this point.

Because there are no rules anymore. There's very little structure. Routine? Yeahhh, that's pretty much gone, too.

And I need to laugh about that.

Because if I don't laugh, I might break.

And I can't break.

So I'm laughing. (Right now, anyway.)

This time of the coronavirus will remind me of a lot of sadness—sadness I don't even want to get into right now. But it will also remind me of happy things and silly things. Ridiculous things and outrageous things.

Like, it will remind me not only of Tiger King and eating more candy than I did that really successful Halloween in sixth grade, but also of making homemade pasta together as a family while my husband and I snuck pieces of the dough and our children got themselves covered in so much flour they looked like the guy from the movie Powder.

It'll remind me of TikTok and learning the "I'm a Savage" dance in the bathroom at 2 am because I couldn't sleep (true story, because… well, I am in fact a savage).

It'll remind me of diving so hardcore into the Upper East Side world of Gossip Girl because after finishing Tiger King, I needed to be transported to another world that is not the strange new one I am currently living in 24/7.

It'll remind me of, quite possibly my most outrageous online shopping purchase to date—an inflatable hot tub. (Here's to $100—and free shipping!—attempting to buy me a sliver of happiness.)

It'll remind me of rolling my eyes at my husband while I listen to my kindergartener tell her teacher and classmates how she's been "playing with makeup and sleeping a lot" during her Zoom call.

It'll remind me of the stress I felt, then giggled at while scheduling more virtual meetings and appointments for my 4-year-old than I ever have as a work-from-home mom. "Sorry, they can't take your FaceTime at 11 am because of her livestream zoo visit. How's noon for you?"

It'll remind me of commiserating with my cousin all the way in Ireland—about all of the same things because we're basically in the same exact situation as each other no matter the time or professional or lifestyle differences.

It'll remind me of chatting with one of my siblings in the Houseparty app then all of our other siblings descending into the call one by one to just shoot the breeze for the five hundredth time in one day. To talk about nothing, and do nothing—together.

It'll remind me of trying to watch Palm Sunday mass online with our kids while the picture is sideways on the TV because we can't get the iPhone mirroring app to work correctly, two children are half-naked, one child is loudly chomping on Pirates Booty and I'm sipping coffee on the couch in my pajamas.

It'll remind me of my husband's panicked face when my 2-year-old bursts into our "office" (bedroom) chanting "Frozen 2! Frozen 2!" during a team call that he was not muted on.

It'll remind me of tagging each other in and out of our work days like a blurry relay race, shuffling laptops and keyboards every which way, inside and outside, in this room then that room, saying, "You good?" before we make coffee to chug and take our turn to get quiet, child-free work done.

It'll remind me of our kindergartener losing her second tooth and rummaging through the house for cash—because we never have any on hand—and celebrating when we finally found a dollar to leave(!), which we then forgot to leave(!), and ultimately had to do some backtracking and CIA level recon to salvage the situation.

It'll remind me of tortilla chips and queso being considered an acceptable lunch for myself. Of my new hobby that is baking bread and then eating the whole loaf. Of friends driving by with signs, saying hi from the road. Of YouTube art videos for kids being considered "art class." Of the constant wonder how we can still be generating laundry when we all seem to be wearing the same exact clothes every day like we're Doug Funny.

Of weirdness. Of sadness. Of togetherness. Of happiness. Of wild worry and love and insanity, all rolled into one.

Of a strange time in history that we'll tell our grandchildren about.

The tough time in our lives where—a convict who really loved tigers, a boatload of candy (and, okay, other groceries, too) delivered by the great and essential postal and delivery workers, choreographed dance videos on an app called TikTok, funny memes of the cluster that is working from home/caring for children/homeschooling/cooking/cleaning, and healthcare worker superheroes—got us through.

Because we will get through this. And a little laughter will help. 💓

Life

A few short weeks ago, I started singing "You Are My Sunshine" to my baby each night before bed. I want my baby to recognize my voice when they arrive in June.

A few short weeks ago, my biggest concerns were around finding and researching the "perfect" baby products, making it to a prenatal yoga class and lathering on belly butter to prevent stretch marks.

A few short weeks ago, I was lucky to be surrounded by my family members eagerly telling them to place their hands on my belly so they could feel the baby move. I wanted to share my joy with them, the first grandchild on either side of our family, and I worried not everyone would get a chance to feel the baby's movements.

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Today, I am worried—like most mothers—about how we will get groceries safely next week without being exposed to COVID-19. I have never felt fearful of physically being in our local grocery stores, until now, and it feels strange. The dramatic changes brought on because of the pandemic have left me feeling like the world is spinning.

Suddenly everything I was looking forward to has been stripped away—canceled birth classes, hospital tours, baby showers, maternity photos, haircuts (okay, I know this isn't that important but I desperately wanted to get a haircut before my baby comes!) and a gift card for a prenatal massage that will sadly go unused.

I can't even easily purchase diapers or wipes for my baby—something that I assumed would always be accessible. I feel unprepared.

And I've been having a repetitive nightmare of being separated from my baby after giving birth because I have contracted COVID-19. Even worse—I fear the hospital will be so full there is no room for me and my baby in case we need medical intervention.

Yes, I know this may not actually happen, but as a first-time mom paired with the uncertainty of the world right now, I am feeling frightened. I'm searching for a sense of normalcy wherever I can find it. Today I was Googling "absolute necessities for a newborn" to see if there was anything I could purchase to simply make me feel better.

All of the prenatal podcasts I've listened to and pregnancy books I've read have one piece of advice in common—find community and support. The message is clear and repetitive: "Connect with other mamas in your birth class", "Ask for help", "Make a chore list for people to help when they come to visit", "Find support", "Remember, you are not alone!"

But now, I, like many other pregnant-during-a-global-pandemic mothers, am feeling alone.

Who knows when it will be safe for my family to see me again? I may not be pregnant anymore, and they may not meet their grandchild until they are a few months old.

I know that our situation could be much, much worse. I often feel angry at myself for even grieving the pregnancy I've dreamed of and lost when others are suffering so deeply. I am acutely aware of the pain happening in the world and feel it to the deepest core of my being. As an empath, the emotions of others affect me tremendously. So much so in fact that at my last prenatal visit my blood pressure was the highest it has ever been.

It's exceedingly difficult to feel excited about the new life I'm bringing into the world when the world currently seems so turbulent and full of pain.

But when it comes down to it, no matter what else is going on, I can't deny that I'm sad. I am so, so sad. Sad for all of the first-time moms whose realities have changed similarly to mine. Sad for the partners who cannot be at their prenatal visits or births. Sad for the healthcare workers and nurses working the front lines. Sad for everyone experiencing loss.

I've even found myself thinking Did we choose the wrong time to have this baby? Why is this happening now?

But what I've come to realize is that actually, now is a perfect time. This baby is teaching me every day to grow stronger than I ever knew was possible. They're teaching me to sit in stillness. To sit with my feelings—no matter how big or small, how heavy or complicated. To slow down and breathe. To never take these special moments for granted.

I still sing "You Are My Sunshine" each night, but with greater emotion and purpose than I've ever felt before. This baby has become my literal beacon of light. My sunshine on these cloudy days.

And even though everything has changed, I have faith that the sun will come out... eventually.

Life

If you feel cash-strapped right now, you're not alone. Many of us are under financial stress due to the COVID-19 pandemic—but there are several things you can do to maintain your cash flow.

Here's how you can access expanded financial resources and practice tried-and-true budgeting methods to help you and your family weather the storm.

1. Review your budget + cut what you don't need.

With the stress of a global pandemic and social distancing—not to mention the financial worries that come with both—budgeting can feel overwhelming. But making a plan now can actually help you feel a sense of control. This crisis will not last forever, but the money choices you make now may have a long-term impact on your financial health.

Start by determining the minimum monthly amount you need to cover your bills and lifestyle spending during the next few months. Make a list of every monthly expense you pay, including fixed bills like your rent and phone bill, and variable expenses like groceries and household items.

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Cut or pause payments on any non-essentials—for example, many gyms are offering the option to pause memberships, since social distancing practices prevent people from going. Other service providers like your cell phone company, credit card company, car insurance agent and internet provider may have options that will reduce your bills, or smaller packages that match your needs at a lower cost.

2. Make a plan.

Once you know your minimum monthly spend, you can make a plan. Compare what you need against any regular monthly income, as well as other income you can receive from things like unemployment, the stimulus credit, and your 2019 tax refund. If you haven't yet, file your taxes early so that you'll get your refund quicker.

If you have an emergency fund, now may be the time you dip into it if you need. Be mindful about how much you take out of this fund and start by taking as little from your emergency fund as possible. This amount will vary person to person, and family to family, but the idea is to allow yourself to use the cash to help cover immediate costs and alleviate stress and anxiety about paying your bills.

3. Access expanded government programs designed to help meet basic needs.

Government measures have been put in place to help families struggling to make important monthly payments. For example, The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recently enacted a 60-day foreclosure and eviction moratorium for single-family homeowners with FHA-insured mortgages. If this moratorium doesn't apply to you, or if you're a renter, try contacting your mortgage lender or landlord (in writing) to let them know you're going to have trouble paying. You may be able to work out an arrangement directly with them.

Dealing with an unresponsive or difficult landlord? Many states and cities have temporarily stopped evictions—check online to see if your state or city has, and make sure your landlord is aware of these laws. This can give you some additional breathing room on your rent payment.

ChildCare.gov is a great resource for families who are struggling during this time. The website has information on how to access helpful programs, like the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program to help families with their energy bills, WIC and SNAP which provide food assistance, and child nutrition programs, including any local schools that are providing lunches despite school closures.

For parents who need help with buying basic supplies, such as diapers, the National Diaper Bank Network can help you access free diapers via a local diaper bank.

4. Talk to credit card companies and other lenders to help you create a plan for your debt.

The FDIC is encouraging banks and lenders to work with any customers impacted by the pandemic. Visit the American Bank Association's website for an online list of banks that are helping those in need with mortgage loans, car loans, credit card payments.

If you're worried about paying your federal student loans, you can now pause payments for up to six months—the federal government has also temporarily paused interest charges. But make sure you don't just stop paying. Set your future self up for success and contact your lender to request an administrative forbearance.

Making a proactive call to your lender is also a good practice for any other loans or credit card accounts—don't just ignore the situation and let an account go into default. Many credit card companies are offering to waive late payment fees or increase credit limits for those in need, but make sure to confirm with your bank or creditor before missing a payment or going over your limit.

This crisis is forcing many of us to make difficult choices and deal with new financial and personal challenges—remember you're not in this alone, and there are many resources available to help you.

Work + Money

There is a blog post going viral from author Jaime Ragsdale's blog, Altogether Mostly, that's reframing our perspectives on how our children are learning right now, at home, with us. With some states already making the call of closing schools for the year, and many parents in other states mentally preparing for that same call—we're all left wondering, How are we going to make sure they're getting what they need? How are we going to make sure they're prepared for next year?

We're questioning whether we're doing enough or not, we're wracking our brains trying to figure out how to incorporate lessons into our day while the kids run around and we run behind on our workload. We're staying up at night worrying if all of this means that our children are going to fall behind—with friends, with school, with life.

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But then I read these words, and it felt like a breath of fresh air.

Because it asks us to pause in the madness and think about things differently for a minute.

It says:

"What if instead of 'behind' this group of kids is advanced because of this? Let's talk about helping our kids during social distancing.

"Hear me out.

"What if they have more empathy, they enjoy family connection, they can be more creative and entertain themselves, they love to read, they love to express themselves in writing.

"What if they enjoy the simple things, like their own backyard and sitting near a window in the quiet.

"What if they notice the birds and the dates the different flowers emerge, and the calming renewal of a gentle rain shower?

"What if this generation is the ones to learn to cook, organize their space, do their laundry, and keep a well-run home?

"What if they learn to stretch a dollar and to live with less? What if they learn to plan shopping trips and meals at home.

"What if they learn the value of eating together as a family and finding the good to share in the small delights of the everyday?

"What if they are the ones to place great value on our teachers and educational professionals, librarians, public servants and the previously invisible essential support workers like truck drivers, grocers, cashiers, custodians, logistics, and health care workers and their supporting staff, just to name a few of the millions taking care of us right now while we are sheltered in place?

"What if among these children, a great leader emerges who had the benefit of a slower pace and a simpler life. What is he or she truly learn what really matters in this life?

"What if they are ahead?"

—Jaime Ragsdale

This post, written so beautifully from the heart, asks us to reconsider life at home right now. To push through the fog and get to the clear skies in order to see—our kids are doing okay. And they're going to be okay. In fact, they're going to be great.

Because if you look past the worksheets that you can't seem to get your kiddo to finish and the billions of (wonderful but also a little overwhelming) teaching resources available to us due to COVID-19 school closures, the simple lessons being learned at home right now might just be the most important ones, too.

This generation of children we're raising is doubling down on empathy, family bonding time, resourcefulness and resilience whether they can see and understand that or not. And those are the big things—the things we probably needed to double down on anyway.

Thanks to this post, and our mindset shift, we can see and understand that now ourselves—even if our kids can't quite yet. We know they one day will.

Life
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