When kids are upset it’s easy for us to get upset as well. Yet, it is exactly in these moments that we most need to be in charge so we can offer balance and calm. It’s not an easy task. In fact, it’s very hard. It requires shifting our own upset state so we help our kids get back in control. This is probably one of the most important things we do for our kids. They rely on us to be in control when they’re out of control. I heard someone mention a saying that goes something like this: “kids need our love when they’re the most unlovable.” It seems so true. Yet it’s also when we might feel less like helping them. It taxes our patience and requires us to not act out in anger or frustration. In fact, it asks us to be at our best, i.e., to stay grounded and calm.
Think of a time when you’ve been overwrought. Then remember who helped you, and how comforting it was to have them stay supportive and ride out your emotional storm with you. Being that loving supportive person is the best way for us to help our children restore their sense of balance. It requires, though, a special watchfulness over our own levels of upset and to be able to move into a more positive space. To facilitate this shift you’ll need to be conscious of what’s happening to you in your body, your emotions and your thoughts. Here are some techniques I’ve used in my EMDR ( Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) practice that you might find helpful.
Notice your body
How do you know you’re getting ramped up? What happens in your body? Do you feel a knot in your stomach? Do you feel tightness in your neck and shoulders? Does your voice get shrill? Learn your body’s unique signs of growing tension. Take a moment to breathe deeply and slow down. Consider using the Lightstream Technique to restore calm to your body. Imagine a healing light seeping through the top of your head. This light can be whatever color you associate with healing. Let the light slowly move through your body, starting at your head and going down to your toes. Imagine this light melting all your tension and relaxing your muscles. Let the light direct itself to wherever you still have tightness. Imagine this light continuing to expand and calm your entire body. Continue to breathe in calm, healing light, and to exhale tension. Stay with this image until you are comfortable and your body is at ease.
Notice your emotions
What emotions are you feeling? Are you angry? Is your authority being challenged? Are you about to engage in a power struggle? Are you sad and feeling defeated? Are you feeling unloved and taken advantage of? Just give yourself a moment to realize what you’re feeling. Whatever the emotion, it’s okay; we all get pushed to the edge sometimes, which can cause us to feel negative emotions. Maybe the Spiral Technique can help you shift the emotion. Imagine the emotion you’re feeling as energy. If this emotion were a spiral of energy, which direction would it be going, clockwise or counterclockwise? In your mind’s eye watch this energy moving; then see if you can gently change the direction of the spiral. Notice if you feel the negative energy dissipating. If one direction doesn’t work, try the other one.
Notice your thinking
Are you thinking your children are doing this on purpose to annoy you? Are you blaming them? Do you think they should be able to handle this on their own? Do you think they’re being childish, overly emotional, or defiant? Being able to notice your negative thoughts will help you see that something’s out of balance. Try guided imagery to gain perspective. Use the Safe Place Technique. Think of a calm scene where you are happy and peaceful. Visualize the scene in as much detail as you can remember. Bring up the sensations that go with that place. Notice any colors, smells, and anything else that’s pleasant. Notice how you’re feeling and identify a single word that would go along with this feeling. Repeat the word while you imagine the scene and allow yourself to merge with the scene.
Notice when you start to feel calmer and there’s a shift in your energy.
Being able to be the adult in charge means finding a way to calm your body, shift to more compassionate feelings and engage in more positive thoughts. Children do push the limits; but it’s important to remember that they are also developmentally driven to explore and test their power. They also have less control over their emotions, and a less developed brain to think things through. They need you to help them manage their emotions, keep perspective and restore calm. Most importantly they need your loving presence and calm authority.