We all desire love and acceptance from our family, these are basic human needs. We need to feel worthy and that we belong somewhere. Does your child truly feel they belong to your family? Do they believe that they are loved and cherished even at their worst?
Try to look at events from your child’s perspective. Are they shunned for poor behavior? Do you lash out them after they lash out at you? I know I have lashed out at my child when at the end of my rope, but this was damaging and not a helpful response at all.
I would like to challenge you to find moments to connect. These moments may be just noticing something they are doing and commenting on it. You will be amazed at how much it means to them just to know they are seen. When they are lashing out you need to try to connect with what is going on under the surface because at the root of anger often lies hurt and fear. They may feel hurt because they feel misunderstood, or they may be fearful of their own thoughts and emotions and loss of control. Whatever the root cause, if you name it and help them understand it, this will not only help with the behavior but it will help them feel safe and understood which will build a strong foundation for feeling connected and accepted. Use the calm moments to help your child build skills for when they feel that way again. Give them the language they need to communicate their feelings. And always, always validate their feelings whether you believe they should feel that way or not, those are their feelings. If we do not validate their feelings, it will create anxiety and disconnection instead of safety and connection.
When you feel yourself getting angry try to remember they are scared, hurt or both. When we know our children are scared and/or hurt, it brings out our gentler side. If you cannot do this in the moment, then take a break from each other and come back to it once you both are calmer. You can say, “I really want to help you but right now my emotions are strong too and I cannot be helpful like this. Let’s both take a break and talk in a few minutes.”
Our kids need to feel safe, loved and accepted in our homes otherwise they cannot do better. We have to first model better behavior if we are going to ask better behavior from them. Be the first to change, the first to reach out, and the first to be the calm in the storm. I was able to change so can you.
These changes will help your child to feel loved and accepted. They will know their home is where they belong. They will not fear losing it all when they struggle with control. They will know that when the storm passes everyone will still be there offering love and support, nothing will have been lost.
Published by Parenting For Good Mental Health
My name is Tricia. I am the proud mom of two amazing young men.
My youngest son was always a very energetic and highly reactive child. Life with him was often like a roller coaster ride. He had to work very hard to learn how to manage his emotions and behaviors. By the time he turned 10, he had learned to manage them fairly well. But one night while watching the movie The Mummy, his anxiety was triggered. Night after night, he just could not get the scary images out of his head. This went on for almost a year where he would cry in bed at night. Nothing we tried seemed to help. So we decided to take him to see a psychiatrist where he was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, depression, OCD, and bipolar disorder.
Unfortunately, the care and medications that he received from various professionals did not really help. By educating myself, I began to learn that there were many more options that had not been provided or suggested. I believe that had I had more information sooner; his care could have been better tailored to his needs. This was a very difficult time not only for my son but for our entire family. We had to develop new ways of interacting that did not cause fights over the littlest things. We had to learn the hard way what not to do in a crisis. My husband had to learn that you don’t have to have a reason to be depressed or anxious. Sometimes you just are. And that it is not helpful to say to a depressed person, that they have no reason to be depressed. Having never experienced these feelings himself, my husband really struggled with understanding these things. But now that he gets it, he wishes he would have understood sooner so he could have been more supportive to our son in the beginning.
Thankfully, our son has found his own way through the darkness. And he has developed some skills and tools for managing his mental illness. His path could have been easier and less painful for him had we known about these other options sooner.
As parents and caregivers we need to educate ourselves on their illnesses and the evidence based care options that are out there. We have a limited number of clinicians that treat children and teens, so we sometimes only get to see them once a month. What kind of impact do you think you could have on your child if you only saw him once a month? We need to bring as much to the table as possible. The clinicians can only work with the information they are given. The more you can tell them the better they will be able to tailor your child’s care to his needs. We also need to know how to be the parents our child needs because what works for other kids does not always work for ours.
I would like to help educate others so that their path to recovery might be made shorter. There is a lot of support out there, but sometimes we do not hear about it. NAMI is the first support that I will recommend.
NAMI the National Alliance on Mental Illness is the largest grassroots mental health organization in America. Through NAMI you will find support and education that can help you to better facilitate the care your child needs. https://www.nami.org/
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