We have thirty years of experience in family and relationship therapy. We teach healthy parenting skills especially with difficult adolescents and young adults. We help families deal with addiction as well as depression and anxiety that affect the family system
CREATING A HEALTHY EMOTIONAL ENVIRONMENT
Your job as a parent to successfully launch your children into adulthood in a perfect manner is, ultimately, an impossible task. The perfect parent launches their child into adulthood feeling understood, validated, important, respected, trusted, valued, esteemed, self-reliant, independent, self-assured, safe, secure, encouraged, supported, powerful, capable, competent, confident, empowered, optimistic…all of which point towards an individual with higher self-esteem, but which is seemingly an impossible task because life gets in the way.
First and foremost, your children are not there to meet your emotional needs; you are there to meet theirs. Thus, you must either get your needs met somewhere else, or you must “let go” of some of your ego-driven needs, such as your need to have so much control, or to feel obeyed. It is imperative to keep in mind that respect is something you earn, not demand. The easiest way to do this is to show respect for your child’s feelings, and remember his/her negative feelings are indications of unmet emotional needs. The more you help your child identify and meet his or her needs, the happier everyone will be.
1. Label your feelings rather than your child’s:
• “I am feeling impatient,” rather than “You are such a slowpoke.” • “I am confused about why you aren’t doing your work,” rather than “You are just being lazy.”
Identify Your Feelings:
• Ask yourself: How am I feeling? • Answer using three word sentences, beginning with “I feel…”
Label your feelings, not your children (or situation).
2. Express your emotions rather than issuing commands:
• “I am afraid you will hurt yourself doing that.” • “I am afraid your tapping might distract the others.” • “I feel bad when I see you take things from others without asking. And I am afraid you might lose their friendship.” • “I feel uncomfortable with …”
3. Learn to take responsibility for your own feelings rather than blame them on your child:
• “I am feeling overwhelmed and out of control” rather than “You are driving me crazy.” • “I felt embarrassed when your aunt was here,” rather than “You embarrassed me in front of your aunt.”
Take responsibility for your feelings (own them): • Don’t blame the children for your feelings • Owning your feelings means not thinking in terms of:
o You are making me angry o You kids are driving me crazy
Remember that there is a little space between stimulus and response, and in this space lies your power to choose your reaction. Don’t give away this power.
Important Note: If your kids are in charge of your emotions, you are in trouble.
4. Remember that respect is earned, not demanded. Show your children respect and respect their feelings:
• Ask them how they feel • Ask them how they would feel before taking action • Think about how you want them to feel and what feelings create a positive learning environment
5. Don’t invalidate your child. Validation means:
• Accept their feelings • Show understanding, empathy, caring and concern • Whenever there is a problem, remember to always first validate the feelings
6. Apologize when you feel regret for something:
• “I feel bad for…” • “I am sorry I …”
7. Encourage your child to express their feelings with feeling words. Frequently ask how he or she feels using emotional words. Help them find the most accurate, most precise “feeling words.”
8. Seek voluntary cooperation rather than issuing commands:
• “Would you help me out by keeping your voice down?”
9. Help your child resolve their own conflicts or challenges.
10. First validate your child’s feelings before addressing their behavior.
• “It looks like you are feeling a little restless today.” • “It looks like you really don’t want to come inside.”
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