Are you finding yourself yelling at your kids? If you are, have you stopped to consider why? Some parents say that they feel like they have to yell to get through to their children and that no other tone seems to work. Others will admit that they yell out of frustration and anger because they feel disrespected or have lost a sense of control. If you are emotionally exhausted and want to repair and reconnect with your child or teen, there is hope. The repair starts with you and involves developing self-awareness, gaining a new mindset toward parenting and adjusting your communication style. If you decide to make a change, know that our habits are stubborn. If you blow it, have compassion and patience with yourself, understanding that change is a process and that it rarely happens overnight.
Gaining self-awareness involves becoming cognizant of your thoughts, the feelings that rise out of you, and the actions you take in response to your feelings. It’s especially important to identify your triggers and the patterns of behavior that lead to explosive emotions and actions. Recognizing the signs that indicate you are about to emotionally “take-off” helps you to take steps to slow down and “keep your plane on the ground.”
Reflecting on and identifying your emotional wounds is another key for understanding your emotional responses to your children. For example, if your child rejects your attention, acts ungrateful, or is inconsiderate toward you and you have had previous wounds of rejection or disrespect, your emotional reaction may be out of proportion to your child’s infraction. It is critical that we recognize our wounds and sensitivities and work on healing them. Consider the possibility that you may be holding your child or teen responsible for helping you manage your emotions. Perhaps you expect them to be happy around you because, if they aren’t happy, you will feel like a bad parent. Ask yourself when you feel irritated with your child’s complaining or whining, “Why am I having this reaction?” Remind yourself that it’s not your responsibility to make them happy or fix their issue. Resist saying, “You have nothing to complain about, you have all you need,” or “I don’t have time for this, it’s always something with you!” If you listen without judgment and reflect back what you are hearing and help them identify what they are feeling, they will feel heard, not alone in their feelings, and they will move on more quickly from the emotion they are displaying.
Remind yourself that your child or teen is a developing human being learning to deal with the world and its challenges. They are not yet fully equipped to handle all that is being thrown at them in life because their brain is not yet fully developed. The parent’s job is to help them learn to navigate life by example and to provide stability in the storms. Try listening without judgment to what they are experiencing no matter how whiney or ridiculous it sounds to you. Listening to their negative thoughts and feelings does not reinforce the negativity, it helps them process and release it. If you try to minimize their concerns or pull them away from their problems, they will hold on to them more tightly. A child or teen who isn’t heard feels alone in their emotion, and it can become overwhelming for them. Ask questions to help them explore their thoughts and feelings and reflect back what you hear them saying so they know you heard them. Empathize with them with statements like, “That sounds like it was really hard." Downplaying their emotions or telling them they shouldn’t feel that way just alienates them from you when we know that connection is key for better communication and relationship.
In addition to understanding our thoughts and emotions, it’s crucial to consider how our physical bodies are responding when we are engaged in a verbal conflict. When we perceive a person as a threat, the sympathetic nervous system produces the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones provide energy and sharpen our senses to protect ourselves from physical danger, whether actual or just perceived. Have you noticed the sense of urgency you feel in a verbal conflict? We talk faster; we raise our voices, and it feels like everything is speeding up. In this state, we are not in our rational brains and are not equipped to listen or learn. The goal at this point is to employ our parasympathetic system which helps us calm down. Increased oxygen in the bloodstream signals our sympathetic system to stop producing the stress hormones, and movement helps our bodies release the hormones. We can assist our bodies by breathing deeply, walking, or exercising. It can take 20 to 30 minutes for our bodies to recover from this activated state. Being aware of this may help you recognize the futility of having a meaningful exchange with your child or teen if either of you are in this state.
If you feel you would benefit from learning self-awareness, improving your parenting mindset, and learning effective communication skills with your child or teen, contact Keystone Services, LLC at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up an appointment with a counselor who can come alongside you and provide tools for change. It’s never too late to make a repair with your child or teen and reconnect with them.
Communication with Children and Teens
Licensed Resident in Counseling