Though not always easy.
Kids have been more whiny and irritable than usual.
And who could blame them?
With all the stress and worry that goes with the uncertainties we’re living through, kids are undoubtedly even more emotional and uncooperative than usual.
And who can blame them? With school closures, they’ve not only had to do school work from home, but most haven’t seen their friends in months. They’ve missed out on spring field trips, birthday parties, sleepovers, and play dates.
Playgrounds and malls and extracurricular activities are all shut down.
It feels like there’s nothing to do and far too much time to do it in.
And, they’re probably getting more than their share of lectures on the ills of too much screen time — all while they’ve had to use screens to do school work.
No one knows what school will look like this fall with any degree of certainty. And uncertainty about anything as important as school — the primary source of structure, routines and predictability for kids — is a recipe for stress!
If we were to take a wild guess, it would be easy to generalize and say that most kids are feeling anxious, lonely, worried, bored and confused. And probably more than a little sad.
And, to top it all off, no one knows when this will all end.
So, of course they’re irritable. Aren’t we all?
But despite being less than easy to be around, they still need caring adults to lean in.
Even more than usual.
But how do you even begin without getting push back?
Start by gently warming up your relationship!
Start by working on warming up your ability to spend time together without any agenda but enjoying each other’s company — like you used to do!
And to that end, here’s a simple 3-step strategy to shift from conflict to connection and build trust so that you can have the hard conversations…eventually!
Step 1: Decide to have a “time in” with your child — today.
Be really clear that this is strictly time to just be with them — no expectations, no reprimands, no problem solving conversations, no demands, no lectures. Just time to spend together.
You can choose an activity — one you know they can’t say “no” to because they’d want to do it even if you didn’t — or you can allow them to choose. The only restrictions being that the activities must be reasonably possible, affordable, and safe under the circumstances. Ideally, it’s something you can do at home with no expense and no special equipment.
Your goal is to spend at least 10 to 15 minutes with them, without any chance of a conflict. Enjoying each other’s company.
Step 2: Get calm and stay calm when you make the suggestion.
That may mean taking time to go for a walk before hand or taking 15 minutes to meditate. Whatever it takes for you to feel grounded and not give off cues of stress when you approach them.
This means that, when you approach your child, you’ll be able to keep your voice and body language (including facial cues) matter-of-fact, pleasant, calm and free of anything that could be interpreted as a “parent trap”.
You know what I mean. You were a kid once.
Remember, you’re extending an invitation to spend time together. That’s it. If it’s a “nah!”, accept it, graciously and lovingly with something simple like, “Okay, well, if you change your mind, let me know! I’d love to hang out with you and do something fun instead of just talking about stressful things all the time.”
And try again tomorrow!
Try to accept rejection without drama or letting them know how hurt you are — because I know you will be. After all, weren’t you being brave just approaching them?
Remember that they’re also being brave considering your offer and trusting that there’s nothing else up your sleeve.
But if they reply with a, “Sure!”, jump into Step 3!
Step 3: If you get a YES, follow their lead.
When you spend time together, remember NO lecturing, teaching, preaching or trying to put any discussion that is about your agenda, expectations, hopes or preferences on the table.
This is time to engage in age-appropriate “child led play” — whatever that looks like to your child.
If they want to build Lego, you’re building Lego. If they want to go bike riding, you’re going bike riding. If they want to play with a doll house, you’re playing with a doll house. If they really just want to tour you around their favourite video game, let them give you a tour!
It doesn’t matter that it’s not fun for you. It matters that it’s fun for them.
It’s just 15 minutes out of your day.
During your time together, follow their lead. Let them be in charge of the play. Be as cooperative and agreeable as you would want them to be if you were in the lead.
Remember, you’re not a peer who might insist on doing things their own way. You’re a parent offering them the opportunity to take charge and share their world with you. Enjoy getting to know them.
If you need a way to remember this, think of them as the writer, producer, director, and star of a production. They call all the shots. You’re only in charge of health & safety.
Why not give it a try?
Reach out to connect with your child — even if they’re a teenager — and see how it goes.
You might be just the person they need to step up and spend time with during these challenging times.
Oh! And since the point was to get them to be more cooperative — that was the agenda for this article, after all — I’d wager you’ll get more of that as you become more available to just be with them. With no other agenda.
I’d love to hear how it goes!
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Thanks for reading! I will be posting new articles focused on natural, lifestyle approaches for living and parenting to overcome anxiety — your child’s and yours. If you’re interested in a free online training to help tame your school-aged children’s anxiety laden outbursts, sign up at this link! Be well. Be happy. Be at peace.