Over the past month, there have been multiple occasions where moms have reached out to for advice. Their child is at a point of emotional turmoil, and as a parent, these women feel helpless, yet they want their child to be strong and see past the moment. It's a common theme of what should I do?
I know this struggle well! In fact, it happened in our house this week too, and I almost moved right past it.
I was busy with my things and preparing to go grocery shopping. I only had an hour and a half before needing to go somewhere else. (and I still needed a shower!)
Just then my daughter got news that felt like the final straw. She was angry and hurt. We talked to her about it, but clearly, it was still festering. Suddenly nothing went her way - everything she touched broke (literally).
I could see she was in pain, but my keys were in my hand. I had to decide A) Maybe she needs time B) I'll just do this and take care of her when I get home C) Chalk it up to the struggles of being a teen or D) Do the right thing and listen
Since this had gone on long enough, I put down my keys took her to another room and let her let it all out. I'm talking, every last thing that was on her mind.
Then we talked and I realized how much she had been shoving down and moving on from. She had been coping for months and I never REALLY heard what she was saying until this moment. Life sucks when you feel like life isn't turning out how you want.
The emotional curveball had hit our house! I am grateful to have experience helping people through these times.
It has been a few days now since our talk and life has gotten easier again. She has a plan and a new focus. It is a small one, but it was all she needed to bring her anger, frustration, stress, and sadness back in check.
So often we chalk these moments up to "being a Teen" UGH! How I hate that.
It doesn't matter what the reason feelings are feelings. People of ALL ages have every right to feel the way they do, just like we do.
As much as the helicopter parent generation is here for their kids, we have not mastered teaching them to handle setbacks and uncertainty. We often fall back on the lessons we were taught, and since we're still alive I guess they're o.k.! Or even worse, we step in and take care of it for them. YIKES!
I venture to guess it is because these are areas we have not quite learned yet either. It's difficult to know the best way to teach these lessons when they were never taught to us. I believe it was Brené Brown in 'Rising Strong' where she describes the thought process of past generations. Vulnerability was a bad thing, so we heard "get over it and move on", OR "children are to be seen and not heard". (Clearly, our parent's were never taught this lesson either!)
TIP: If someone is repeatedly verbalizing
their pain they don't feel like they are being heard
5 Steps for emotional times:
Stop what you are doing or thinking
We learn by example and if you are multi-tasking while listening it can be interpreted in many unexpected ways. (They don't care enough to listen, They care more about xxxx than me, no one ever listens, I don't matter. ) This can make things worse.
What this looks like:
- Stop thinking about what you have to do
- Put down your phone
- Turn away from the computer
- Ask them to wait a minute while you finish something up, so they have your attention
Listen as if it is the first time
By doing this, you have no history of old stories. They have probably been holding in this pain for a while not knowing how to express it. (Try not to get defensive this is about them, not you)
What this looks like:
- Just BE in the moment
- Change locations to another room to help clear your head of distractions
- There is no past or present there is only right now
- If they need to cry, let them. If they stop ask if they have any more to let out.
Repeat back the emotions you hear and see
This lets your child know they have been heard. Better yet, if you are wrong, they will clarify the problem for you!
Most kids are great at piling on one thing after another, it usually has one theme, like "I'm not enough."
What this sounds like: (just the facts)
- "It sounds like you've been holding a lot in and life doesn't seem fair"
- "You are trying and trying and it just doesn't seem good enough"
- "It hurts when your friends don't treat you the way you treat them"
Explain they have every right to feel the way they do
We all experience life differently. After all, it's their opinion, not yours! It makes me cringe to hear someone say "Oh don't worry about that" or "You shouldn't get so upset" I'm sorry but you have every right to cry if the spilled milk was the last straw!
What this sounds like:
- "It is completely understandable why you would feel that way!"
- "If that happened to me, I would be really upset too!"
- "It makes sense why you are feeling left out"
They have gotten everything off their chest; they know you are there for support. Now it's go time. At this point, they feel like a survivor/victim or hate themselves/others. Feeling this way is not helpful to anyone for long.
Choosing how they are going to move forward is important because it puts the child back in control.
4 empowering choices:
- Accept the situation and gain some new perspective
- Take steps to change the situation
- Avoid the situation (usually if it doesn't directly involve them)
- Look the experience differently. It means to challenge the original perception as not being completely true.
What they sound like: (I'll use a grades as the example)
1. O.k., things aren't turning out the way you wanted. Now we know one way of studying that doesn't work! What do you want to do differently?
2. So, you got a bad grade, what are your options right now to change things?
3. It is not your place to talk to the teacher about Sally's grade.
4. Was the teacher really being unfair? If we think of it like a puzzle what was missing?
TIP: Help the "I don't knows"
Give them space and have a set time to come back to the conversation
Start off the brainstorm with crazy ideas
Go for a walk together
Why is handling Emotional Lessons important?
Learning how to stop and listen to what is really going on is so important. It effects our judgement, confidence, self-esteem.
In my daughter's case it was all of these. She felt she had misjudged situations again and again, reducing her confidence which effected her self-esteem which created misjudged situations.
By being here for her, she was able to see the problem wasn't with everyone else but how she was approaching them. She had been seeing herself as she wanted to be not as she was.
So she put into place a new habit to help her show up the way she wants to be. Let me tell you she comes home every day happy and usually with a new funny story. What a turn around! I don't know if the habit will last, but now she will always have this experience to look back on.
The most important thing to remember is to make sure they know you are there for them and listening. Then ask what they want or can do to help themselves.
Breathe: Listen while they get everything off their chest (whether it is true or not)
Think: What is really going on where is the pain coming from? (What would it feel like to be in their shoes?)
Create: Be there while they create an action that feels right to them to take back control
Oh one last thing! If you haven't figured it out yet, you can use these tips on yourself as well. I do! More times than not I say... "That's Why!!!" Give it a try, and let me know how it goes.
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