Monday, November 18, 2013

Parenting Through Your Fear and Sadness

There are a few parenting moments that can hit you like a sucker punch.        

One of the most air-sucking ones is when you hear your child say "I hate you". It usually comes right after you have told your child a consequence for not following a rule or a direction. The two of you are "in it" and your child has used heavy artillery with those three words.

Another moment might come when your child questions a death in the family, a divorce, or other tough time for your family.  You'll see your child hurting or struggling to adjust.

These moments are just awful..  They're heartbreaking. In these moments, your child forgets you only want what's best.  They are only thinking about privileges lost and being forced to deal with changes they didn't want and never asked for.

It's is crucial to push through and Be The Parent.

Hear me on the this. Yes, there are going to be times in parenting when you hear "I hate you". It will sting but you cannot let the moment hold you hostage. Yes, your family may go through something at some point and you will be tempted to "go easy" on your child because "things have been so hard". I get the thinking but it's not what your child really needs.

Kids really do need limits to feel safe. Rules, limits, and a consistent schedule tell your child that an adult is in charge and that you've got this. When their daily structure changes or rules are bent for them, kids sense this and it doesn't build security.  It increases anxiety and worry. 

For them, if things are changing, things must be really bad.  If they see a parent become easily disabled with a momentary outburst, they may initially feel victorious because it's what they think they want.  However, after, when things are calm, they start to wonder: "Who's really in charge here?"

I've written about this before and know I will again. Without limits, kids falter, either emotionally or behaviorally.

It's so important that you not fear your child's rebellion, aggression, or upset.  It feels overwhelming in the moment but it doesn't last.  If you tow the line and hold the boundary, you are giving your child room to settle and gain perspective.  Without that wall, without that limit, kids gets anxious and they start to become unraveled.  There's no way for a child to calm and gain perspective in that anxious state.  Instead, your child will up the ante and increase the acting out behavior until you are forced to respond. 

Setting limits won't compromise your relationship with your child but not setting them could cost you your child's respect.

Remind yourself that this bad mood, this "I hate you" moment is temporary.  It won't last.  Set the limit.  Enforce the rule.  Show your child who's in charge and then he or she can get back to the business of being a kid.

When families go through periods of change, everyone needs time to adjust.  When a grandparent dies, parents divorce or separate, or when there's a financial hardship, the family is forced out of the comfort of regular, everyday schedules.  Make room for this sadness.  Talk about it out loud.  Share your feelings and encourage everyone else to do the same.

You may schedule less things.  You might plan fewer social outings.  All of that is normal, expected, and encouraged.  However, this is NOT the time to back off of rules or expectations.  Homework still needs to get done.  Bedtimes still happen. Rules around TV and other electronics still need to exist.


Because when your world is falling apart and everything is changing, everyone--including us grown-up kids--will feel more comfortable in a predictable environment.  If you give your kids a pass on homework or let disrespectful language pass without acknowledgment, your child has no grounding--no foundation to rely on.  

"Getting back to normal" feels safe for kids.  It builds security and promotes healing.  If the schedule is changing and they don't know what's expected of them, kids will become anxious and as I said above, there is no healing in those moments--only worry.  In order for your kids to heal and find peace amidst the change, they need as much as possible to stay the same. They will crave what is familiar.  It's their grounding and where they will find comfort.

Look, I get it. Rules and limits don't sound warm and fuzzy.  They don't seem as nurturing as a free pass might.  Telling a child who is grieving a loss or missing a parent who lives somewhere else to go to bed might sound heartless.

 Limits can be nurturing and you can add nurturance to limits. 

You can stay in your child's room until he or she falls asleep. You can pass a loving note under the door of a child who is shut away in a bedroom and giving you the silent treatment.  Letting your child know that an adult is in charge makes it easier to go to sleep at night and to school in the morning.  Creating normalcy, or your new normal, will decrease anxiety and worry.  Your child will build resiliency and begin to thrive during a changing time.

Guess what?  As you've heard me say before, we're all just grown-up kids here and what's true for kids is true for us, too.  Schedules and structures help us feel safe, too.  Creating predictability during an unpredictable time will help you, too.

By helping your child heal, you are helping yourself.

This is how you get your parenting win amidst the hardest and most challenging of times.

Until next time,

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