The secret to communicating with your kids

The-secret-to-communicating-with-your-kids

How many of these phrases sound familiar?

“I heard you the first time!”

“Alright, alright. Keep your hair on…”

“Okay, okay—I said I'm coming!”

“Wait a minute!”

“But mum…”

*Enormous tantrum*

When do you hear these phrases the most? When you're trying to get the kids out the door to school? When you've asked the kids to clean up their room? When you want them to put down their device ready for dinner?

These moments can be enormously frustrating and stressful. It's like our children work on their own time schedule—a schedule that works exactly 13 minutes and 34 seconds slower than ours. Of course, their schedules switch to working 3 hours ahead of ours when it comes to taking them out for a treat or putting on an anime DVD!

I've got to tell you, there are some days when I get so sick and tired of my children just not doing what I ask them when I ask them to do.

But let's flip the tables for a moment.

What do you say when you are happily pottering around the house, baggy track-pants and crazy hair and your partner tells you that he needs a to be dropped at the train station—NOW!

Or what about when you are the in the middle of typing a delicate work email and one of your kids start to nag you about making pancakes for their morning tea?

It's not always easy to be calm and courteous is it?

If only my partner had given me a thirty minute warning that they would need a lift.

If only my child had known how stressed I was about getting that email right.

Believe it or not, kids feel like this all the time.

“If only my mum knew that this TV show would be finished in two minutes,” they think.
“If only my dad knew that I didn't hear him when he said we would be going out soon,”
“If only my parents knew that I feel really tired and don't have the energy to clean my room tonight.”

However, our children don't articulate themselves in the way we would like—or perhaps we don't always listen when they try to tell us how they are feeling. So, we end up getting angry responses like “Okay, okay!” “I told you I'm coming” and *enormous tantrum*.

Our households could be much calmer, peaceful places if we just got alongside our kids and let them know what we need them to do ahead of time. What if we tried:

“At the end of your TV show, could you please go and clean up your room?”
“Just to let you know, later this morning we are going to be going out to the shops, so you need to start finishing up your game, okay?”
“I really want you to be on time for school today. Do you think you could go and get your shoes on? Then you can play your game in the car on the way to school.”

Maybe one of the reasons our children are becoming angry and frustrated with us is because we keep on asking them to do things without giving them warning. We like to be given warning when we are expected to do something, so why don't we afford our kids the same courtesy?

We need to think about what we want our children to do ahead of time so that we can give them time to finish up what they are doing and prepare themselves for what we want them to do.

Why not try an experiment this week. Give your child a friendly 5 minute warning before you need them to:

  • Get in the car
  • Wash their hands for dinner
  • Turn off the TV.
  • Leave the playground
  • Get in the bath
  • Clear their room

I wonder if the number of angry outbursts begins to go down with the more 5 minute warnings they get?

Louise Griffiths is the founder of Exploring All Options, an educational consultancy and tutoring service that provides alternative ways to teach young people in a way that works best for them. Visit her website here.

Do you struggle to communicate with your children? Does your household experience more tantrums than peaceful discussions? Call Colleen on 0434 337 245 or Duncan on 0434 331 243 for a FREE 10 minute consultation. To make an appointment, go to BOOK NOW and you will be able to access Watersedgecounselling’s online appointment diary.

Managing Meltdowns: Wisdom from over the fence

Managing-Meltdowns

It had been a particularly rough 12 months for our family. My father was terminally ill, one of our children had additional needs, which required at least one therapy session a week, and my husband had had an incredibly stressful few years at work and had just changed jobs which necessitated that we move to a semi-rural suburb on the edge of Sydney.

I was physically and emotionally exhausted, but our change of location brought with it some wonderful benefits. We were on a large block of land by suburban standards and rather than being surrounded by 6 foot high fences, our property boundary was marked by chicken wire held up by neatly spaced stakes. We had an uninterrupted view into our neighbours yard, complete with a sweet little staffy dog, a small tractor and two horses. Much to our delight—the horses were stabled right beside our fence line.

I quickly became friends with our next door neighbour. Her name was Chris. She had been a nurse in a busy Sydney hospital but, in her 40’s, she left that career behind to take on a quieter existence. She earnt a small income as the ‘photocopying lady’ at a local private school and spend her afternoons tending her property. Just before five p.m. everyday, she would be out with the horses and I would often meet with her for a chat over the fence. She was full of wonderful wisdom about ‘country-etiquette’, gardening plus motherly advice and support.

One of my children was going through a particularly rough patch and she often heard the tantrums and meltdowns through the open windows of our house. She would ask me how I was coping with motherhood and chat with me about the challenges my children were facing. She never judged, she always listened. We just chatted, sometimes even as my child was wailing and stomping by my side.

I was so, so tired. Some days I just couldn’t give my children the time and attention they wanted. Sometimes their wants and needs took me totally by surprise. And sometimes, those screams and tantrums just kept tumbling out of my children, one after the other.

As much as the fresh country air and slower lifestyle helped me, it still wasn’t enough to quell the anxiety and depression that I had been battling as a result of the events of the previous year. The crisis point came when I suffered a minor nervous breakdown. I was overwhelmed with life, with the things we had come through and with the uncertainty of the future. I ended up in bed for two days, on a steady diet of lemonade icy poles, staring at ABC 24 and unable to engage with my children.

When I finally got up again, I went to the Doctor and asked for help. She wrote me a prescription for anti-depressants and referred me to a counsellor who could assist me in making sense of my turbulent emotions. With time, I regained control of my mental health, my mood brightened and I was more engaged with my family. I began to read my children’s behaviour much better and took pre-emptive steps to divert and avoid their meltdowns before they happened.

A few months into my new regime of medication and counselling I was chatting with Chris as she fed the horses. “I haven’t heard many tantrums from your place lately. What’s happening?” Chris asked. My response was simple

“I started taking anti-depressants and went to a counsellor!”

My neighbour smiled knowingly. She knew full well that children aren’t always to blame when meltdowns and tantrums occur. The fact of the matter is, a parent’s state of mind and their ability to respond to their children are actually key factors in avoiding the conflicts and misunderstandings that lead to meltdowns. It was a lesson I had to learn on my own.

Five years later, I continue to monitor my mental health, taking medication and seeing my counsellor as needed. It has helped me cope with the passing of my father, an interstate move and more career ups and downs. Despite this, I usually manage to remain the loving, engaged parent my children need. And I can tell you now….there are a whole lot less meltdowns in our house when I am looking after my own mental health!

Louise Griffiths is the founder of Exploring All Options, an educational consultancy and tutoring service that provides alternative ways to teach young people in a way that works best for them. Visit her website here.

Are your kids having a meltdown? Are you a busy parent who wants to care for your mental health? Call Colleen on 0434 337 245 or Duncan on 0434 331 243 for a FREE 10 minute consultation. To make an appointment, go to BOOK NOW and you will be able to access Watersedgecounselling’s online appointment diary.