Is Your Child More Anxious and Worried Since the Election?

During the election season, many of our children experienced a tremendous amount of stress and worry about who would win the Presidency.  It became especially apparent to me the night of the election. My daughters had invited a bunch of friends over to watch the election results.  As it became more clear from the news that Donald Trump might win, my younger daughter and her friends, who are all about 14 years old, looked at me with tears in their eyes and asked, “Allison, are we going to die?”

I was certainly not happy that Donald Trump might become President, but I wondered why they were reacting so acutely to the news.  “Why do you think that?” I asked. One after the other, they gave me their reasons why.  One child said, “My mom said if Donald Trump wins we will all be doomed.” Another girl said, “My dad said Donald Trump is incompetent and can’t run this country.” My daughter said, “Mom, I heard you ask dad ‘Do you want Donald Trump’s finger on the button?” I realized at that moment that a key reason they were so upset was because of the conversations many of us were having in front of our children about Donald Trump becoming President.  Interestingly, some of my friends who voted for Donald Trump also admitted to having had very little filter when they were having conversations about Hilary Clinton in front of their children.

As I looked at the fearful faces of these young girls, all I could do was imagine how worried and anxiety-ridden I would be if I were a 14-year-old child hearing from my parents that the world was not safe if a particular person became President. With much less life experience, our children view these comments as Continue reading…

A True Gift For Our Children – Our Presence

I am sure that every person reading this post loves their children.  But if we asked our children if they truly feel loved by us, what would they say? There is a decent chance some would say, “Sure she (he) loves me but ….” and then add some qualifier that indicates they are not fully satisfied. Now we can get our backs up and start listing all the things that we do, buy, and arrange for our children every day to show our love . . . or we can stop, take a step back and ask, “Can we be more caring, present and loving?”

The truth is that our children may not feel fully satisfied with our love because we are not totally present for them. We may feel that we do everything for our children but, in truth, our minds can be elsewhere at times. Maybe we are regretting the past or worried about the future or just consumed with everything that needs to get done today. Yes, we are there physically, but our minds can be everywhere else. If our minds are not present, our children might not always feel the depth of our love. They might not feel understood and our love may not be filling them with joy.

The good news is that there is an easy way to begin to be more present for our children. We can become more mindful of the present by following our breath for a few minutes several times each day. Before you judge this and think I am not going to do this it is silly, please give it a try.

When your child is asking you a question and you have things to get done or you are distracted by a problem or thought, just stop for a moment. Breathe in and think “I am breathing in” and breathe out and think “I am breathing out.”  Breath in and think “I am here in this moment” and breath out and think “there is only this moment.”  Your mind will return to your body and you will really see your child in front of you and truly comprehend what they need in that moment.  You might even want to look in their eyes and tell them “I am here for you” and you will see their faces light up.

It is with our presence that we can give our children more understanding.  When we are there to be attentive and look deeply into who our children are and what they have to say, we give our children joyful love and often alleviate some of their emotional pain.

With your presence you can impart the strength needed for your children to go out into the world and pursue their dreams. Why?  Because your children will feel deeply loved – by you.

Can Understanding Help Us Deal With Our Children’s Moods?

“When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you don’t blame the lettuce. You look for reasons it is not doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or less sun. You never blame the lettuce. Yet if we have problems with our friends or family, we blame the other person. But if we know how to take care of them, they will grow well, like the lettuce. Blaming has no positive effect at all, nor does trying to persuade using reason and argument. That is my experience. No blame, no reasoning, no argument, just understanding. If you understand, and you show that you understand, you can love, and the situation will change”

—  Thich Nhat Hanh

When I read this quote the first thing that came to mind was, “how can I view my children and my husband as lettuce?” I loved the idea of not placing blame and being more understanding, but how can I not hold them responsible for their actions?

So I started with the thought of some flowers that I bought a few summers ago at a nursery. The woman at the nursery said the flowers would bloom all summer. The irrigation company said that there was enough water going to the area for the flowers to flourish. Yet a few weeks later all these flowers died! Although I really wasn’t mad at anyone (things happen), I did wonder about who I might blame for the incident. I thought maybe the woman at the nursery made a mistake about how long in the season these flowers live. Maybe the irrigation company was wrong and they did not get enough water. Or maybe I did a lousy job planting the flowers. But it didn’t occur to me to blame the flowers. I just felt one of the conditions was not right for the flowers to flourish.

So I began to wonder how can I bring this idea into my life so I won’t blame and be angry with people I love when I think their behavior is inappropriate or hurtful. Can I see them as the flower that does not thrive under certain conditions?

As I contemplated this idea, I started to think about the things that my children do that upset me. One thing that came to mind was how my children act when I pick them up from school (I live in a city where many parents drop-off and pick-up their children from school until they are older).  Often when I showed up at school for pick-up, within minutes one of my children would be cranky, moody or angry. They would start to argue with each other or me and the beautiful afternoon I had imagined unraveled. I would try to explain to them that their behavior was unacceptable and hurtful and they should be grateful for this time together. But no matter what I said, within days my children went back to their old behavior.

And then I thought about the flowers that can’t flourish under certain conditions. And it occurred to me that my children were probably tired, hungry or maybe something happened at school that day to put them in a bad mood. Maybe the conditions at this time of day are not conditions where my children flourish. Interestingly, the first thing I felt when I believed this thought was less emotional pain.

My change of perspective helped me give up the idea that things are not as they should be. I stopped trying to make pick-up from school the way I had imagined it would be and I felt more relaxed and peaceful. I no longer saw the situation as bad or blamed them for their behavior because I realized the conditions were not ideal for my children to flourish. I started to bring food with me for them to eat on our walk home and sometimes that calmed them down. I practiced a breathing technique before I picked them up (the Pause) as I was aware of the potential conflicts that lurked around the corner. Most of all I had compassion for their experience and understanding for their inability to handle that time of the day.  I believe my understanding has allowed all of us to move through afternoon pick-up the with more ease and less heartache.  It’s still not always perfect especially when the girls argue, but my inner peace with what is happening helps me stay calm, say they right thing and work toward creating a condition where they can better thrive.

On difficult days, I still speak with them about their behavior when we get home and I try to make them aware of how their actions affect those around them.  I hope that they will learn as they grow up to be kind and loving even when conditions are not perfect. But for now I can try to lead by example.

And those flowers. I planted them again for this coming summer with new soil and more water. Let’s see if the conditions are better for them to flourish this year. So far, so good.

How Can We Control Our Anger When Our Children Are Mean To Us?

I have never considered myself an angry person who flies off the handle when something happens.  So I found myself extremely surprised when my daughter approached her teenage years and there was yelling in our home.  To be clear, some of that yelling was coming from me!

I could argue that my anger was coming from a response to my daughter yelling at me for not agreeing with her or trying to help her get to school on time.  I could speculate that my anger was a result of what I perceived was her lack of appreciation for what I do for her every day.  I could claim that my anger was coming from her moodiness that puts a damper on some family events.  I could argue that my anger stemmed from my daughter fighting more with her sister and sometimes in public! When I do this, however, I am not taking responsibility for my anger and my actions.  Also, I realized that every time I react to my daughter’s anger with anger NOTHING ever changes.  After a few months of being on this rollercoaster, I decided to get off the ride.

I realized that my teenager daughter is an awesome child who is experiencing bursts of energy that come and go.  In fact, I think all children have the same type of energy flow but in a teenager it is much more obvious because it can be cunningly verbal and sometimes cutting to the receiver.

So how did I soothe my anger?  I did it by Pausing.  I learned to master the art of the Pause by not waiting until I got angry.   Instead, when I recognized her getting angry, it became my signal to Pause. Pausing before the anger rises is a totally different experience than when I Pause after becoming angry.  When I Pause after I have become angry it works great but I can still find myself engaging in the back and forth arguing until I get calm.  But now when I see my daughter is getting angry or moody, I Pause and have the instant realization that she is stuck in her whirling emotions and I automatically become the observer.  I realize that I need to let her get it out sometimes and it will pass. I also understand in that moment that she is trying to find her own way in the world. When I understand this I have more compassion for her situation.  To be clear, the Pause does not suppress any of my emotions. I just don’t feel so angry.

And it is not that I permit her behavior because there are sometimes consequences to her actions and when she is calm we share a lot of conversation about how she has acted.  But by Pausing, I am softer and sometimes I am able to just listen and let it go.   Now she often comes back to me and apologizes because she can only look at her own behavior and can’t blame me for my reaction.   Will it always work, probably not, but my household is more peaceful and we move through the bumps a lot quicker.  It also works really well with your husband and your mother-in-law too!!

I highly recommend the mindful Pause.  It takes practice and training to make your child’s anger your signal to Pause but it can be done.  It allows you to observe the situation and not get stuck in someone else’s drama even if it is your own child.