Monthly Archives: April 2014

Self-Soothing for Parents–Part 2

Self-Soothing for Parents Part 2  

Children get upset.

It takes experience and maturity to realize that Dad will be back at suppertime or that that really wanting a cookie does not create cookies in the cupboard (adults tend to get upset by that harsh fact as well).

Children also get mad.

So many things they want to do are out of their control.

Children usually let their parents (and sometimes the whole neighborhood) know that they are upset and angry.

How can you stay calm or calm down when your child is upset—without adding to your child’s distress?

The first thing is to accept that strong emotions are part of life. It’s okay that your child gets upset at times. It does not mean that you are a bad parent. It does not mean your child is a spoiled brat.

It often helps to acknowledge the emotion and identify it. Tentative identification is best—“wow, you sound really angry.” Say it with meaning and respect.

Dismissing your child’s reaction (“it’s nothing to get upset about”) or completely ignoring it can upset your child further.

Remain available and empathetic. If no one is getting hurt or unduly disturbed by the noise you may want let the storm rage. A dramatic (but safe) release of energy can actually aid everyone.

If you were raised in an environment where any strong emotion was repressed or expressed in dangerous and hurtful ways you may benefit from some professional help to learn and be comfortable with safe ways to express emotion.

It’s disturbing when your child is upset. Frequently, you are the cause of the upset. You said “No,” or “It’s bedtime.” You stopped your toddler from sticking a key into an electrical outlet.

Nobody likes being yelled at—especially not for doing the right thing! Here you are being a loving, responsible parent—and your child does not appreciate it!

Getting yelled at for our responsible parental actions can lead us into irresponsible behavior—we may become unduly harsh with the child or we may back off and allow the child to go on misbehaving. Both are completely understandable but not advisable.

Full disclosure: yes, I have done both, and the results were not pretty.

How can you respond?

  1. Give yourself empathy—silently or out loud. “Wow, it hurts to be yelled at for trying to protect you.”
  2. Remember you are the adult and the parent in the situation. This is part of the job. Helpful phrases from author Mary Sheedy Kurcinka include: “I do not fear your anger.” “I will help you follow the rule.”
  3. Let your child know that feelings are acceptable but that actions may not be. “You are angry with your sister. It is NOT okay to hit her.”
  4. Offer an acceptable action: “You may punch the couch cushion.”

 

Originally published on ParentingSuccessNetwork 11.27.12

http://parentingsuccessnetwork.org/parenting_tips/2012/self-soothing-its-good-for-parents-too-part-2/

 

Self-Soothing for Parents–Part 1

Self-soothing for parents—Part 1

I got upset the other day and it took me a while to calm down.

Now I am a middle-aged grandmother. I have experienced some bad times in my life; compared to those, the incident that upset me was trivial. Nevertheless, it took me a while to calm down.

Children get upset a lot. They tend to express their grief, anger, hurt, and/or frustration with loud vocalizations and violent actions. Loud noises—crying, screaming, whining–are stressful for most adults to listen to. Violent actions—thrashing about, hitting, biting, throwing things–can be dangerous to self, others, and property.

Helping your child to deal with grief, anger, hurt, and/or frustration in ways that don’t unduly annoy or hurt others is an important part of your job as a parent.

The problem is that you are very likely to be upset (or to get upset) when your child is upset.

Not to mention that you, as a human being, get upset yourself for reasons unrelated to being a parent.

Learning (and practicing) healthy ways to calm down is a lifelong endeavor.

Fortunately, when you calm yourself down you model that process, thus making it easier for your child to learn ways to calm down as well.

Note that there is a difference between shutting up and calming down. Shutting up is a valuable skill—particularly in social situations—but it doesn’t give the benefits of actually calming down. Shutting up is like putting out the flames of a fire but leaving the coals still glowing—ready to flare up at any time. Calming down includes dousing the coals and making sure they are all out. Once you are calm, you can access your thinking brain and, if necessary, problem-solve any underlying issues or strategize ways to prevent future occurrences. But first you need to calm down.

What helps parents to calm down? Here are some ideas for when you are the one who is upset.

Breathing: If you learned any breathing techniques for coping with labor, even if you never used them then, they can work well for you now.

Movement: channel the adrenaline in your system by pacing, walking, throwing things that don’t break, working, etc.

Empathy or validation of your feelings—silently or out loud: focus your attention on yourself and what is happening in your body and mind. Tell your body you are listening to it.

Positive self talk—silently or out loud: “This is a challenging situation but I can handle it.”

Drink water, eat nutritious food: dehydration and low blood sugar contribute to being upset.

Provide a place to make noise—the classic going into the bathroom and screaming. If it is safe to do so AND your child is not upset, excuse yourself—stating that you are upset and need to go outside or be alone for a moment. Simply changing the setting can be calming as well.

What helps you to calm down?

Originally published on ParentingSuccessNetwork 11.8.12

http://parentingsuccessnetwork.org/parenting_tips/2012/self-soothing-its-good-for-parents-too-part-1/

Next time: Calming yourself down when your child is upset.