Parenting in general is a little like the weather in Melbourne (if you don't like it....wait 5 minutes).
When we have children who are autistic, ADHD or similar then things definitely get even more interesting, and challenging.
Are you struggling to make it through the day?
Do you struggle with change?
Are their words, actions or sounds triggering you?
WHY is flexibility so important?
Change can and does happen, we can either go along with it, or fight the inevitable fight.
Fighting change doesn't stop it from happening, it just makes us feel anger and frustration in the process, and we all know how great those emotions feel.
Of course anger and frustration, like all emotions, are normal, but why put ourselves in these states on a regular basis if some flexibility can alleviate them happening so often!
We also need to remember that we are role modeling how we manage change. It's okay to struggle at times (shows we're human), this way our children will also know that they won't always be cool calm and collected, and that it's okay to get angry and frustrated too.
When we get the flexibility and resilience thing happening well, we show our children how to cope with change.
Flexibility also reveals our compassionate side, we see a situation that might normally stump us, and we can view it from a new perspective and our children can experience our compassionate side (the side we all want to show our children more often), and this leads in to the HOW!
HOW do we become more flexible and resilient?
Flexibility seems to come easy to some, while for most of us, it's a bit more of a struggle.
Acceptance is one method that could be adopted to help in this struggle. Some examples for how we can use acceptance are -
- My child is sad and crying because he misses his grandparent who just left. While it can be very distressing to listen to a crying child, and in our mind, we know we will see them again soon, to a child, they are genuinely very sad that this person has left. Perhaps they understand that they will be back, and just miss them right now, or perhaps they haven't grasped the concept yet. Either way....they are sad, and this is what we need to accept! When we stop, take a breath, and accept their emotion for what it is, we can show compassion. "You sound very upset that Nana has gone", "I am here for you and happy to give you a hug if you like". By accepting, and also acknowledging, we are helping them feel seen and heard and we are helping them to process their emotion in a healthy way.
The other bonus in this situation, is that the crying that can be distressing to listen to, may actually finish sooner.
- We're running around the house, trying to get on top of some much needed housework (we all know this one) and our child decides they "need" us to sit and colour with them, if fact, you feel a meltdown coming if you don't do this. We have a couple of main options here, keep going with the housework, feeling flustered at these demands that keep getting louder and start to stretch that patience thinner and thinner, until we snap and yell at them for wanting us to play, when we have such "important" stuff to do, or, decide to stop the housework for a bit (it's not going anywhere) and sit down and colour.
We can split this in to a further 2 catagories, we can resent this time away from the housework and get upset that your time could be better spent, or you could use this time to connect and enjoy the colouring in and time with your child, accepting that they are actually more important than the housework.
Re-framing the situation can also work, and we can use the child wanting us to colour in as the first example -
- When we split in to 2 new catagories, we started to explore re-framing. By sitting down and enjoying the time with our child, we saw that we had another way to look at the situation. We avoided the meltdown (for now at least) and we spent some quality time with them. Perhaps we can even get them involved in some cleaning after some time. For some children you might need to get creative, others are keen to "help" and do what mummy and/or daddy are doing.
- You may have heard the term "they're not giving you a hard time, they're having a hard time", and this is a great lens to look through when re-framing a situation. When their behaviour is starting to become disruptive or destructive, looking at what is underlying can really shift a situation. All behaviour stems from an emotion, and emotions are a response to a met, or unmet need. Understanding this can really shift your perspective.
an Emotion shift can be another great tool to have in our tool belt, but is it really that easy? Sometimes it can be, depending on your insight in to your own emotions.
- Rather than specific examples, I'm going to explain this one in the way I do it. How many of you have been sitting on the toilet, and heard a child start screaming about something? I'm sure I'm not alone here!
I know when this happens in my household, my go to response is frustration. Now, I know and understand that my frustration is ultimately not at my child (yeah right, you say). This is true, I promise, but in the moment, under my breath, I mumble something along the lines of "for f*@k sake" and boom, frustration is front and centre.
How do I snap out of this one? I take a couple of breaths and realise that my child is having a hard time (remember that saying) and my frustration is really in the fact that I have limited ability to help them from the confines of the bathroom.
While still indisposed, I call out and let him know where I am and that if he needs me right now, to come to me. If this doesn't help the situation, I have to accept that I can't help in the moment, but that he will be okay (assuming you don't hear blood curdling screams that might indicate something more concerning than frustration).
Once I'm free again, I go and sit with him, ask him if there's anything I can do to help. The deep breaths and time to reflect helped me to see that he needed the calm mummy to help regulate and diffuse his frustration.
By shifting my emotions, I was in a better position to help in calming the situation rather than adding to it and escalating both of our emotions.
Lets wrap this up
With a few new tools under your belt, you're on your way to greater emotional flexibility (resilience) and a home that's beginning to get a little calmer.
You and your family will all benefit in many ways from the calm, the connection and the compassion found through these methods.
I'd also love to hear your examples of using these methods, or perhaps you have your own method that I haven't touched on. Please comment below....you never know who's life you could be changing for the better.