Sunday, August 28, 2011

Parenting during stressful times (6)

Tip 6

Try to maintain a daily practice that involves bringing equilibrium to the mind and body, so that when you are dealing with stressful situations your set point of equilibrium is not so difficult to contact and maintain.  This practice may be for some having a meditation practice, for others it may be taking a walk, or singing.  Simply: it may be focusing on the breath:  5 breaths in /five breaths out of equal length/ hand on belly and breath into belly/ inhale deeply and long exhale making a noise as you do so……)  Whatever, you choose to do, there needs to be a palpable sensation of relaxation in the body in response to the practice. Notice the change in your energy. 
Have at least 4 different ways to calm yourself. You can practice regularly with your child also, particularly during the times when you and your child are both experiencing attunement.  (as it can be fun and the child is more receptive to you during these times) Laughter together is also stress relieving and collaborative. It is a fact that, Laughter and shame are unable to co-habit the brain at the same time! Enjoy!

Friday, August 26, 2011

parenting during stressful times (5)

Tip 5

THINK CONSEQUENCES RATHER THAN  PUNISHMENT. IT HELPS TO TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR OWN ACTING OUT FEELINGS AND BEHAVIOR.  All of this is best said and done when you and your child are in an emotional equilibrium again and the problem-solving/reasoning part of the brain can be receptive to consequences and reasoning; compassion and forgiveness. (encourage a change in behavior by saying “today you had a difficult time …….. maybe tomorrow you will do better. If it is better tomorrow then maybe you can/we can……(positive incentive) but right now you will need to……. ) Also, if you do ‘lose your mind’ even though temporarily, it is very important to say sorry.  It can also be useful to say what you have learned about yourself from the situation and what steps you will take to change how you interact during those stressful times.  What positive incentives, which involve relational connection, can you identify? How do you talk about consequences with your child?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Parenting during stressful times (4)

TIP 4.
LOOK ,WATCH AND LISTEN – Our tendency as parents, during those times when our own children are acting out, is to respond quickly and to react and become active in trying to change their behavior. (as we may feel out of control and threatened ) Unless your child is doing unsafe and dangerous behavior which involves a quick in the moment  response then naming the feelings you see motivating the behavior or the body/facial expression you see expressing a feeling is a way to show attunement. Then take action.  (children,  even when pushing away and acting out , still want to have the parent stay connected in some way and at least attempting to understand why they are so unhappy and scared and emotionally distant and angry) . There will be an energetic push/pull; Go away/stay here during these times.  As parents we have to be OK with the fact that our children will lash out verbally and say hurtful and disrespectful things during times of extreme stress. (Remember it is situational and not personal. What are the circumstances that cause your child to go into stress? What do you know about your child’s history that may cause ‘sensitivities’ to certain situations?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Parenting during stressful times (3)

TIP 3.
The reptilian brain is not able  to be reasoned with  when  a stress reaction is in full activation.  Infact,  as you have probably noticed, if you do try to reason it is perceived by your child as trying ‘to control ‘ and aggravates more of a power struggle.  What to do?
Each time you ‘lose your mind’ in a stressful interaction with your child, is an opportunity to practice coming home to yourself, your body and regulating that emotional reaction in yourself, so that new wiring in your brain can occur. Bringing your awareness to the rhythm of your breath (autonomic nervous system) and to your body movements/sensations – walking around or just noticing the in and out flow of breath are simple examples of this.  What is the main trigger for you when your child is acting out? How to do you manage your emotions and stress reaction to your child’s behavior so that you can return to equilibrium quickly)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Parenting during stressful times (2)

The tips I am giving here are meant to stimulate questions, ideas and understanding to help you and your child have more resources readily available during those stressful times. What works for one family may not work for another so try to maintain kindness and creativity in your exploration.  Create a plan and expected consequences together if possible. (ie. If your behavior is …… the consequence/response will be)
It is best to avoid disciplining; setting limits and delivering consequences when you are angry or in an emotionally reactive mode. The emotional intensity will permeate the disciplining action and be experienced by your child as a punishment rather than a consequence. This will cause more stress and compromise the ability for the child to learn from the experience in a positive way.
The plan you create can be tailored to the age of the child and intensity of behavior (although it is important to remember also the difference between the emotional age and the actual age of your child) Most important of all is to avoid shaming.
Here are some examples of what could be put in the plan:
 I, (the parent) will not leave the room when you are upset.  I will not hold you unless you ask me to do so.  I will stay with you, until you are able to calm down.; We will  talk together once we are both  able to think and problem solve about what happened. We will respect eachother at all times and if you or I are disrespectful we will agree to apologize to that person when we are able to do so…………
TIP 2.  


Safety involves taking action in the moment. This could involve you the parent taking a ‘time in’ to maintain your emotional equilibrium or it may mean you holding your child until you have both calmed down (while letting your child know this) or it may involve sitting in a room with your child while they have a tantrum…….. For ‘out of control teens , who “do not want a parent” but desparately need  a consistently loving parent, the push/ pull (merging and distancing) in the relationship with you can be intense. If you can, Let the teen know that  no matter what, you are their parent/guardian and you  are responsible for keeping them safe and even though he/she does not like it or may  see you as the ‘bad guy’  you will do whatever it takes to keep them out of harm.  (which may mean calling the police on occasion) (what works for you and your child? )

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Parenting during stressful times

I went to my chiropractor with my daughter on Saturday and this wise healer adjusted my back and then advised my daughter to stop me watching or listening to any world news broadcasts!!! Of course, my daughter loved being in charge of this insight into the human condition!!! So my daughter has kindly been systematically reminding me of this wisdom, particularly when I slip up while travelling in the car together.
Stress, and that revved up feeling in the brain and body, is addictive, even though we may know it is harmful and depleting.  I have to say, listening to soothing music during the rush to work or school or just talking and laughing together has been way more satisfying and nurturing.  If only the prevention and relief of stress symptoms and reactions in our brain and body were always that simple and collaborative!! 
But, that collaboration and desire to be of help, is exactly what is needed when being a parent to a child who is experiencing stress and acting out behaviorally at home and school.  Stress reactions become accumulative, more deeply unconscious, and more intense, the longer they are left unattended. If you are a parent of a child who has unresolved trauma in their lives, such as foster/adopt children whom have been displaced due to traumatic circumstances, you will understand what it is like living daily with this unresolved traumatic stress. 
Stress is also contagious, so if you are already a parent tuned in emotionally to your child and care about their welfare, then you are also more likely to have a stress reaction to their stress and behavior. How to stop the vicious cycle of stress reactions and find an entry point to defuse the energy?  It is not always as easy as switching off the radio in the car, but it does take a determined effort, in the moment, on the part of the parent, to do something different and stop the escalation of intense feelings and the verbal or physical harm that can ensue.
Over the next few weeks I will be posting some tips that parents in my practice, including myself, have found helpful.
Tip one:
The best approach to helping your child with a stress/traumatic stress reaction is to be prepared ahead of time and practice!
Take a pro-active approach. Plan and practice. So that when the reaction occurs and the problem-solving part of the brain (neo-cortex) is not communicating with the reptilian part in the child’s brain, at least you have available a strategy together to address the fear and anger and unregulated behavior. Write it down, step by step. Have an agreement ahead of time. Use it like an ‘emergency exit’ out of emotional overwhelm.  (What would your ‘emotional emergency exit’ plan look like?)