Easter and our opportunities to rise again…

One day, my son was feeling badly about not living up to his potential. He expressed negative beliefs of “not being a good enough, being lazy, stupid, feeling guilty and shame about his choices and behaviors.” It hurts me tremendously to hear him share these deep negative core beliefs as they are the same ones I have battled through trans-generational trauma and sadly often triggers me into a negative reaction. Thus, no matter how much my partner and I told him how much we loved him and highlighted all the good things he does, he could not hear us and resisted. As a therapist, I know too well that our reactions and attempts to minimize his emotional pain were invalidating and actually making him feel worse. That one must first truly listen, accept, validate the speaker’s feelings and expressions so they may be able to process their pain and move on. Yet being a parent, feeling so responsible and sad for hearing your magnificent child feel so bad is hard to accept and cope with, especially on top of all of life’s other stressors.

After becoming conscious of my own insecurities and triggers, I then chose to respond by cuddling with him and remaining silent as he cried and vented. I agreed how painful this must feel. I apologized for the times my actions have led him to feel this way and that I will keep working on improving myself. I then shared a story of how I woke up early yesterday and caught a glimpse of the intense orange from the sunrise.  I was reminded how blessed we are that *God gives a beautiful new horizon to awake and go to sleep with every day. I thought about Easter approaching and how many are celebrating how Jesus rose from the dead. I told my son that holidays are really just symbols of the gifts God gives us every day. We have been given the gift to rise every day and try again to be more kind, helpful and align our beliefs with our actions.

My son immediately said “Thank You,” gave me a kiss and popped up exuberantly. He began to hug and say “thank you” to all the many items on his bed: his books; his new big, blue, soft blanket; his giant stuffed elephant, his fan, his light, etc.  I then read him some stories, the last one was I Believe In Me.

The next morning, I was awoken early by my son meditating “Ohmmm, Ohmmm, Ohmmm.” He was inspired to start his day on a positive note.  I wish everyone to see the beauty and miracles given every day and when you don’t, forgive yourself and others, and rise again.

Deep breaths and baby steps,

Debra

*I believe God is universal and defined by what feels best for you and your family’s belief system.

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How to get Calm…from Aha! Parenting

Thank you Dr. Laura Markham of Aha! Parenting for this very useful post.

“When our child acts out, or lashes out, it’s natural for us to panic.  We move into “fight, flight or freeze”  and our child looks like the enemy.  We all know whatever we do next won’t serve our child’s growth and healing, but we’re in the grip of strong emotions, and we can’t help ourselves. Or can we? What if there were three steps that would help you shift back into calm, AND keep your child from getting upset as often? There are.

“STEP 1:  Get Your Own Emotions Regulated

1. STOP, DROP whatever else you’re doing and BREATHE deeply.

2. Reduce the pressure: Remind yourself that there is no emergency.  No one is dying.

3. Change Your Thoughts: Say a little mantra in your mind:  “She’s acting like a child because she IS a child.  I’m the grown-up here.”

4. Physically release your tension: Notice where you’re holding tension in your body and shake it out. Take a deep breath and blow it out. Make a loud (but nonthreatening) sound. Get a drink of water.

5. Be Here Now. 

If you can bring yourself into the present moment, your upset will drop away.  Give yourself permission not to worry about the future or the past. In this moment, what action would be healing?  Anything else can wait.

“Step 2: Shift the Energy 

1. Make things emotionally safe. Say “We’re having a hard time, Sweetie. Let’s try a Do-Over.”

2. Empathize. Acknowledge your child’s perspective. “Seems like you want ______. ” 

3. Find the common ground. “But I need _______. What can we do?” 

4. Help your child get emotionally regulated. Kids usually do this best by crying or raging in the safety of our arms/presence. Breathe your way through this, reminding yourself that afterwards, he will feel safe, connected to you, and cooperative.

“Step 3:  Learn the Lesson

1. Learn. When you’re calm, reflect on what you can learn from what happened.  How can you support yourself to stay more emotionally regulated?  (Allow more time, get more sleep, better organization, fewer commitments, see things from your child’s perspective more?)

2. Teach. Later, when you and your child feel calm and connected, say “We had a hard moment today, didn’t we?  I’m sorry I got upset.  I guess I was worried.  When you _____, I feel ______.  What can both of us do differently next time?”

3. Change. If this is a recurring situation, make a list of possible solutions and start trying them.  Life is too short to endure the same lessons over and over again. “You won’t remember these steps in the heat of the moment.  Why not print out a little cheat sheet and carry it around with you?  A few months of practice, and you won’t even remember the last time you lost your temper.”

Dr. Laura Markham has since removed this original post I copied and pasted above, but here’s link to an updated version:  http://www.ahaparenting.com/_blog/Parenting_Blog/post/How_to_Stay_Calm_When_You’re_Losing_It/ Even though this is the  advice I’d give, I still printed a copy of this to put on my fridge because no matter how well I know this, I still get stressed and forget it in the heat of moment. No human is immune to emotional hijacking. We all can benefit from deep breaths so oxygen can reach all our cells and open more channels to process the information. I’d check out more blog entries http://ahaparenting.com/_blog/parenting_blog and you can sign up for the newsletter and daily inspirations from Dr. Laura Markham. I am a huge fan of the books she recommends too.

If you’d like further support in applying more coping skills like these in your home as well as learn about normal human development and improving co-parenting relationship Email me  Debra@postivereframe.org or check out my profile at wecounsel.com

Make it a Calm and Connecting Day<3

Debra Wallace MS

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

11 rules for Being Human

Rule 1: You will receive a body.

You may like it or hate it, but it will be yours for the entire period this time around.

Rule 2: You will learn lessons.

You are enrolled in a full-time informal school called life. Each day in this school you will have the opportunity to learn lessons. You may like the lessons or think them irrelevant or stupid.

Rule 3: There are no mistakes, only lessons.

Growth is a process of trial and error: experimentation. The “failed” experiments are as much a part of the process as the experiment that ultimately “works”.

Rule 4: A lesson is repeated until learned.

A lesson will be presented to you in various forms until you have learned it. When you have learned it, you can then go on to the next lesson.

Rule 5: Learning lessons does not end.

There is no part of Life that does not contain its lessons. If you are alive, there are lessons to be learned.

Rule 6: “There” is no better than “here”

When your “there” has become a “here”, you will simply obtain another “there” that will again look better than “here”.

Rule 7: Others are merely mirrors of you.

You cannot love or hate something about another person unless it reflects something you love or hate about yourself.

Rule 8: What you make of your life is up to you.

You have the tools and resources you need. What you do with them is up to you. The choice is yours.

Rule 9: Your answers lie inside you.

The answers to life’s questions lie inside you. All you need to do is look, listen and trust.

Rule 10: You will forget all this.

Rule 11: You can remember whenever you want.

~author unknown~

Thank you for my wonderful mentor Barbara Wetzel (author of  The Ergonomic Couple) who gave me this on a poster several years ago. I like to keep a copy on my fridge reading one rule aloud daily to my family and self. I find them all so true yet #7 seems to be the hardest to handle for me.

 

An example of focusing on the positive in a typical family day…

An example of focusing on the positive, being response-able versus reactive, the power of reflection, and my partner and I working together as a team to uphold our family values…

One of my parenting triggers is when my kids scream from another room for my attention. When I am regulated (i.e. well nourished, calm) then my positive response is, “I can better hear you if you come to me.” Now when I notice that the kids screaming for me from another room has become a habit. I take time to reflect on my own behaviors. I can say with certainty, that 9 out of 10 times, I am committing the same offense that I am getting angry at my loved ones for doing. Just now I shouted at my son from another room to take out the compost. My partner kindly said, “If you would like us to hear you, you will need to come here.” Fortunately, I was also regulated enough at that moment that I actually felt my own negativity and hypocrisy as I shouted and I was resilient to accept my partner’s valid request. I’ll be honest, there are many times I am dysregulated (ie. stressed, not well nourished) and I react negatively which I have many self-care plans in place to go do then. I finished my tasked, then walked over to apologize to my son and asked him nicely to take out compost before his grandparents arrive home. His dad agreed and said, “how about you do it now.” My son got up without complaint which I thanked him for doing so. As he put on his boots he said, “Well, I did complain in my mind.” We giggled and I said, “It’s normal to have resistance first and it matters more to me how you chose to act.”

Take wonderful care of yourselves and your family. ~Debra