News & Views
from   The Parenting Center at Abington

     Staying Calm During The Storm

  Storm clouds are thickening. Darkness feels near. Rumbles of thunder sound close. A flash of lightning catches you by surprise. There is no doubt now. It is coming. Your heartbeat increases. Tension grips your upper body as the windows begin to rattle. Then….it hits!!

   Pre-teen son: “Mom, where is my blue shirt? I need it NOW!! I’m gonna be late.”

  Elementary age daughter: “Ugh, we’re havin’ chicken again? I hate what you cook.”

   Toddler: “Mommy, yuck; my shoes are all muddy” (as he walks across the living room carpet).

  The phone rings as the timer dings for the chicken in the oven.

  School friend: “Mrs. H., I just remembered my dad can’t pick me up. Can you drive me home now or I’ll be in big trouble.”

   There is no doubt. The “storm” has arrived.

   Getting Ready

  It can seem as if those “in house” storms ALWAYS come full force. They often hit during an inconvenient time, late afternoon or early evening. When we are feeling tired, overwhelmed or otherwise occupied, the impact of such a storm can challenge our ability to stay calm.

  Like Mrs. H., we can sometimes feel it coming. Perhaps specific transition times such as mealtime, bedtime, or preparing to leave the house act as triggers for approaching storms. We can prepare ourselves for impending storms by taking a moment to:

  1.  Observe or take the current “temperature” of the household. Use your senses. Look, listen, and feel! (Refer to the Sept. 2002 News & Views article, “The Science of Parenting.”)

  2.  Know what situations trigger reactions or set the kids off.

   3.   Become aware of each child’s unique temperament traits which greatly affect our children’s reactions to the world. There are ten temperament traits, some are activity level, adaptability, intensity level, persistence and mood. (Refer to the Jan. 2002 News & Views article, “Why Our Kids Don’t Come With a Return Policy”.)

  4.  Recognize each child’s needs based on where they fall on each temperament continuum.

  Once “tuned in,” we can prepare ourselves for the next step in “stilling the storm.”

   Think first!

  There is no one easy way to “still the storm.” Our job as a parent is to choose our response to the storm. We can get caught up in the swirling winds or choose to be like the eye and stay calm in the midst of the storm. Yes, this is easier said than done!! Many of us automatically respond to storms the way our own parents or guardians did when conflict arose during our growing up years. Becoming aware of this is often the first step toward managing a current healthy response. Calmness is a combination of attitude and skill. We need to consciously decide that getting calm is best for the children, the parents and the family.

  The Benefits of Calmness

  ·   Getting calm allows you to gain control over your responses. Children then are less likely to continue their “storming” behavior.

  ·   Calmness is contagious! Your calm response invites your children to become calmer.

  ·   Calmness gives you the ability to think more clearly. Physiologically, our brains can think in a clearer, more rational mode when our emotions are in check. We become more focused on what the situation calls for than on the emotional upheaval when we respond from an attitude of calmness.

  Getting Calm

  It is not always possible to respond calmly! However, as stated above, when we become calm, children notice. They feel safer and more secure. Someone is “in charge” here. There are many ways to get there, including the following:

  ·    Take deep breaths while counting to ten (or twenty!) in your head.

  ·   Give yourself a “time out.” Leave the area (as long as everyone is safe) and walk somewhere nearby where you can be alone until your emotions become more settled.

  ·   Tell yourself this is not your doing and that they are not out to get you. They are just “being kids.” This is part of the process of growth. This can be a time for learning.

  Calmness can be faked! You can act calm on the outside while feeling undone on the inside. Yes, this too takes practice!

  Responding Calmly

  Here are some specific tips for you to use once you are calm enough to respond.

  ¨ Speak slowly, softly, firmly and briefly. This will help you stay in control. “Get off the carpet – now.”

  ¨ Use direct eye contact. Get down on the child’s level. Do not be threatening or intimidating, but firm and clear.

   ¨ Refuse to be rushed. It’s OK to say, “I need a moment to think about your shirt. I’ll tell you as soon as I tend to the oven.” Do your best to keep an “emotional distance.” (See News & Views from Sept.)

  ¨ Share your own feelings using an “I” message. “I’m sorry you don’t like what I’ve cooked for tonight. I still want you to be here for dinner at 6:00.”

   As long as there are families, there will be storms! Some will “hit” harder than others. Some we may feel prepared for, others will catch us by surprise. Even armed with knowledge and skills, there will be times when we won’t respond calmly. But when the storm hits and we are able to take a few minutes to get calm, we can remind ourselves that children don’t always think, speak, or act respectfully, we can recognize what a child needs, and we can respond slowly and with confidence….what a gift we give to ourselves and our families. Just like a storm can bring water and fresh air to our outside world, so can a calm response bring renewal to our inner world as well as to those who matter most to us.

By: Pam Nicholson, Certified Parenting Educator

October, 2002
Vol. 5/ No.2
The Parenting Center at Abington
is a non-profit, non-sectarian community service organization.

Editor of News and Views: Deanna Bosley,
Certified Parenting Educator

A publication from The Parenting Center at Abington
P.O. Box 596, Abington, PA 19001 (215) 576-0586

Printing of this newsletter is courtesy of the Abington Memorial Hospital.
The Abington Board of School Directors assumes no responsibility for the opinions, information and possible typographical errors and omissions, etc. that maybe reflected herein.

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