Given recent events, many individuals and families have been thinking about and discussing race and racism. As parents, it may be hard to know how to go about talking about these charged issues and how much to share with your child. I wanted to offer a few ideas as you have these conversations with your child.
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This blog is written by the clinicians at Jonah Green and Associates, a mental health practice based in Kensington, MD that provides quality services for children, teens, families, and adults. It is intended as a resource for families who are seeking to expand their knowledge about mental health and mental health services, and also as a resource for families who are seeking quality mental health services, especially in the mid-Atlantic region. Please feel free to post questions and comments on any of the entries as well as on any topics or articles from our companion web site www.childandfamilymentalhealth.com.
Between the time I am writing this (early March) and you are reading it there will have been countless scary headlines about the coronavirus, and some new useful facts, discoveries, and policies, too. It feels like a crazy time and adults and children alike are anxious, confused, and unsure what to do or to believe. So how do we parent our children through all this? It turns out that familiar common-sense parenting guidelines still apply, just as basic hand washing hygiene rules are still our best strategy. Here are some of my thoughts.
Therapists, coaches, and “how-to” books offer a lot of excellent communication advice for conflict resolution. One recommendation is to use “I” rather than “you” statements: “I feel hurt” rather than “you’re so mean”. Another suggestion is to acknowledge the other’s point of view, with statements such as “I get how you would feel that way”. Additional skills include paraphrasing the other’s words, being specific with complaints rather than making blanket statements such as “always” or “never”, and avoiding “mind reading” (“I know you’re doing that just to manipulate me”).
“You just don’t understand me at all!”
“You never listen to anything I say!”
“Everyone is smarter than me!”
Chances are that if you have been caught in an argument with your teen that starts with one of these polarizing statements, you have found it quite tricky to get out of. It can be extremely challenging for your teen to regulate their emotions and have a constructive conversation once they have escalated from rational into black and white thinking. However, our teens are not the only ones facing black and white thinking challenges. Parenting teens can present us adults with challenging dichotomies like being too strict versus too lenient or holding on too tight versus forcing independence. By showing our teens that we too have this struggle, we are able to normalize the challenges and model healthy ways to problem solve.
For many children, moving from one activity to another can be a great challenge. Managing expectations during transitions and using specific strategies can decrease battles and increase harmony when moving shifting tasks. Below are several ways to ease transition time both inside and outside of the home.