When you have been invited to a family event or party and the first thing that goes through your mind is dread for when something might go wrong. There will be a tantrum. The siblings will fight or the sobbing will start. Going to family events are great fun and it is great for your kids to see you really enjoying yourselves as well. However, it is good to have a done a little preparation first! Children tend to get less of our attention when we are meeting with people we might not have seen in a while. You can top up their attention backpack with some special one to one time before you go.
If they are starting to look a little off track when you are there offer some more connection. Even if it’s just a few minutes. It really helps! Have a dance, play a game with them. Then finally there is knowing when it’s time to go. You’d love to stay longer but the tiredness, the fizzy drinks and sweet food are going to take their toll in the end. Better to leave slightly earlier but have you all feeling like you have had a really good evening! You must do it again soon! And no phones or tablets in sight!
It is easy to get caught in certain routines or responses within a family that are not entirely helpful. But then we keep doing them because that is what we have always done. In the 7 habits of highly effective people by Stephen Covey one of the most important is ‘sharpening the saw’. Taking some time out of our busy lives to actually look at those habits and routines that we have got into and evaluate how they help (if they help) and if not make a plan to do something different. On example might be that when the kids come out of school they always fall out. Is there anything that could be done differently? Instead of getting straight in the car to go home, which you know ends in a big argument, who gets in the car first, who gets to talk first about their day, who runs to the car first – you get the idea! All of which can take a lot of time! What about a trip to the park for 10 minutes to run off steam! What about singing or dancing or being daft with the kids on the way to the car getting some laughter going and releasing the tension from the day. Including yours! Often at the end of a long day these are hard to do but some times weighing up managing an argument or throwing yourself into song can be liberating! We may do both and that’s ok too!
When do we teach our children about the wide range of emotions that there are? Do we give them the tools to be able to effectively able to express themselves? We are often tempted to do this in the middle of an upset ‘I see you are feeling angry’ but this isn’t always the best time. Naming emotions at this point can lead to more upset if you get it wrong, or stop an upset that they are not finished with yet. Also, things like anger often mask other emotions such as embarrassment or fear.
When children are feeling calm they are more able to reflect on emotions. You can then add the emotional vocabulary ‘I could see that you were so frustrated, it is hard when you feel like that’ or ‘I could see how disappointed you were but I thought you managed really well with that feeling’. This gives children the chance to think about how they were feeling and the name it has. It moves us away from Mad and Sad. But don’t forget to name the good ones too! Pride, love and even to feel content! It is healthy for children to share their emotions and for us to listen to them. (It also helps if someone is then there to listen to ours!)
As we trawl through Facebook it is easy to set ridiculously high expectations of our families. Every picture looks like an advert, every post is of fun and laughter. So what expectations should we have? They have changed with each generation. When we head out for a day trip our expectation may be for everyone to have a lovely day. How often are we disappointed by someone in tears or siblings falling out? We find it difficult to move on from the upset because it has spoilt our expectations of a day out. Kids have been kids.
When our expectations differ significantly from what actually happens it can have an impact on our ability to cope and manage. Many of us have lost confidence in ‘admitting’ that our children are not perfect that we don’t support each other as maybe we could. I am aiming to lower my expectations, not to provide activities for my kids all the time but give them the option of asking me. I’m not going to expect them to all like the same things but do some things separately. To know that if they are fed, loved, tired and have laughed they have had a good day. To know that I don’t have to be Mary Poppins for them to think I’m a good mum! I can be good enough! (Also I am setting up a free parent resource group in Harrogate to be able to get and give support to other parents too! Come along!)
I was reminded yesterday of how nice the atmosphere feels after a good thunderstorm. The air feels clearer and calmer. The kids might need reassuring and help to see the beauty in the storm.
Sometimes we need to weather the storm with our kids too. No one likes to hear children crying or having a tantrum. It can bring strong feelings up for us. We want our kids to be happy. But they are just their thunderstorms. Expressing emotion in bite size chunks with reassurance allows kids to learn what emotions feel like and that once they have expressed that emotion it goes away. If only for a while. Feeling strong emotions is as scary to a child as a thunderstorm so we need to reassure and know that they will feel better afterwards.
Regular thunderstorms is good practice, having a good cry (boys and girls) allows us to move on and realise that we can come through the other end. Better the thunderstorms than building up to the Hurricane.
Crying – Causes, Concerns and Coping Calmly
Laughter is the best medicine. When children are young it is easy to make them laugh. Peek a boo or pulling silly faces. As they start to grow up and become aware of the world around them they often become more serious and less inclined to laugh. We can also be less inclined to laugh with them. The daily demands of getting out of the house and doing all that has to be done can erode our capacity for laughter. Yet laughter is an excellent way of releasing tension, to connect with our kids and let them know that there are wonderful things in the world as well as the bad. So this weekend watch for what makes your child laugh (without tickling) and see if you can do more of that. There is a reason that the internet is full of cats doing daft things, if that makes you laugh share it with them! Sending out a smile to the world this week 🙂
As I sit here I’m accutely aware that the air conditioning in this cafe is working as in the cafe next door it was not. If the air onditioning hadn’t have been working I probably would never have noticed that it was on. It is small stuff. But enough to make me leave… too often we can miss the small stuff both for ourselves and our children. I started one week writing it down to make me notice. It included singing on the way to school and playing on the trampoline. The stuff that made me smile. Children change all the time and it is often hard to notice the small stuff as it happens in and amongst the great pace of life. Notice when they smile. What makes them laugh? When they deal better with a situation. Take time over the next week to think each day about something that they or you have done that you are pleased with. You could be amazed by what can change and how good it can make you feel!
This week has all been about teenagers. How difficult it can be to spend time with them when all they seem to want to do is be without us. We can get caught up in our own concerns of what they should and might become that we struggle to see the wonderful young people that they have become. We can find our selves in regular negative interactions about homework, exams, friends etc. ** STOP** stand back for a moment. Try and find 10 minutes a day to be with your teen with no agenda and no questions! You may have to watch or even play a computer game! Your presence will allow your teen to remember how good it can be to have you around. Make appointments to discuss your concerns so they don’t feel like they have to avoid you. They may have the same concerns but don’t feel that they will be listened to or that they will be bombarded with advice. Just listen. Give gentle advice when asked. They need to be able to come to you. You need to provide them the opportunity to be close to you. Your teens need you. Honest!!
Children do not come with a step by step guide and once you think that you have just worked out how to support them they go and change! We live in a fast moving society where some traditional parenting strategies may work or not and we may not wish to parent in the way we were parented.
Accessing parent courses can help enhance what you are already doing with your family. It is designed to be supportive and to embrace a range of parenting approaches. One size does not fit all. My parenting strategies differ for my children as they are so individual. All programmes and seminars are about accessing a range of parenting tools to find what works for you and your children.
We are all here to do the best for our children and for them to be able and equipped to be adults in the modern world.
All courses and seminars are informed by the latest research and delivered by a Chartered Educational Psychologist
I look forward to meeting you soon
Dr Tracy Laverick