Stefanie Armstrong, MS, LIMHP and Cathy Schweitzer, MS, LMHP
Tip #1 Take a Look at YOU!
Take a couple minutes each day and look in the mirror while you are getting ready in the morning and getting ready for bed. This may sound a bit strange, we know! But taking time to reflect on your own image in the mirror and practicing that “relaxed poker face” will prove to be helpful when you are faced with a difficult parenting situation.
Tip #2 Ask, “What’s Up with Me?”
Team up with your spouse or partner and give one another “calm face feedback.” Teaming up will help each of you gain insight into facial expressions that you may not be aware of that could very well be triggering for your child. Your “I’m so confused” face may be read by your child as “I’m upset with you.” Just knowing this and making some small changes to your expression could ward off many behavioral issues.
Tip #3 Say “Cheese”
When smiling at your child be sure to use your eyes. William Shakespeare once said “The eyes are the window to your soul.” Remember this when giving your child a genuine smile.
Tip #4 Give Yourself a Lift
A furrowed brow can say many things to a child, things that you do not mean. Your furrowed brow could just mean you are confused and thinking hard about something. Your child may interpret your brows as “Oh, I’ve done something wrong!” Have an awareness of your brow when communicating with your child and lift your eyebrows slightly to unfurrow your brows.
Tip #5 Become a Dysregulation Detective
Notice dysregulated movement in your child. When your child begins to do/say things (unable to sit still, baby talk, incessant questions) that hint “I’m becoming dysregulated” just calmly go near your child and sit down and connect. Many times when children begin to get dysregulated, there is a very small window where they can become regulated. Many times that window is missed by grown-ups, not because we grown-ups are bad, but because the window is so small and we tend to redirect the dysregulation before connecting with the child. This can trigger meltdowns.
Tip #6 Get Silly…Giggle!
Try some silly mirroring activities, matching movements of your child and having your child then match your movements. This can be a fun game that can be done with adolescents as well as younger children. Find as many ways as you can to be silly and laugh. Research shows that laughter is one of the very best ways to connect. Let loose, laugh!
Tip #7 Move, Move, Move
Get active moving with your child, whether it’s on a walk or a bike ride or dancing or anything that involves movement. Play Frisbee, get on some swings at the park…literally anything that involves the body moving. Movement is very connecting even if it’s only for five or ten minutes. Getting the body up and moving creates connection and increases feel good chemistry in the brain, thereby connecting with your child.
Tip #8 The Reconnection
The reconnection is just as important as the connection throughout the day. When you reconnect with your child after a day at school or any time away from him, put intentional interest and excitement in your voice. Ask “out of the box” questions for reconnection. For example, “Who was the funniest person today?” Or “At lunch, who ate the grossest thing?”
Tip #9 The Ender
No matter what. And we mean this….end the day with a positive connection. Did we mention…No matter what? Yes, make sure your child (adolescents included) hear a “Goodnight” and “I love you” before you all hit the hay.
Tip #10 Be Still
We aren’t saying that you have to sit for thirty minutes every single day and meditate. However, if you already do this, that’s amazing! If not, even five minutes of guided meditation can help. There are many wonderful meditation apps, such as Calm and Insight Timer. These apps have wonderful quick meditations. When we are able to calm our brains and bodies we can be more in tune with ourselves and our own emotions.
So, take a look, notice you, say “cheese,” give yourself a lift, become a detective, giggle, move, reconnect, end it well and be still.
©2017 The Attachment Trauma Center Institute- Permission to Reproduce