How to Stay Calm during Stressful Conversations with your Teenager
Are you dealing with a stressful relationship with your child or students? School-related arguments can start as early as elementary school! With the stress of parenting a struggling student, comes a visit from someone I call - Monster Mom.
I would like to introduce you to my friend Monster-Mom. She isn't a friend I particularly care for. She's that friend you had to hang out with because your parents were friends with her parents. You didn't know when she was going to pop over, but when she does it is always inconvenient and ALWAYS made you feel UGH.
Monster-mom likes to drop by my home at the most inconvenient times too. Usually she pops by during homework or bedtime. I'm trying to have a pleasant time with my daughters and without even a knock, Monster- Mom barges into my home. In the words of Stephanie Tanner, "How rude!"
I can't tell Monster-Mom to beat it, because she has thrown herself over my sofa, propped her feet up on my coffee table and cracked open a drink. However, I have learned a few techniques to stall Monster- Mom at the front door.
How to Handle Stressful Conversations
Put yourself in a Parent Time-Out
Sometimes the only thing we can do as parents is remove ourselves from the situation. If you find your teenager's voice is rising and your voice is attempting to rise above it, that is a good indication you need to remove yourself from the room. Remember, you can't fight calm! If you are unable to physically leave the space, leave the conversation. Say, "I do not like how I am responding at this moment, so I need to remove myself from the conversation." Give yourself the needed head space to calm yourself from the argument you are having with your teenager.
Be a Thermostat - Not a Thermometer
In a recent episode of School Counselor Gone Rogue with Jennifer Wisser-Stokes, she taught us to be a thermostat not a thermometer. In short, ask ourselves what we as parents, educators or counselors can do to not react to the temperature (a thermometer) but control the temperature (cool the situation down). A thermometer reacts to the situation. A thermostat is a gauge.
Build your ToolKit
Timeouts and not reacting to your child's temper are wonderful in theory, but in practice - it takes practice! I have found that practicing mindfulness (yes it's that buzz word again) helps keep me in tune to when my emotions are rising. The more I practice awareness, the faster I can sense my personal stress levels and temper my reaction to my children. The app Insight Timer is my personal favorite tool to use. Ok, I really love their sleep meditations, but I find their walking guided awareness tracks to be incredibly helpful. Who would think that noticing the weight of your dog's leash in your hand could relate to your relationship with your child?!
Make Homework Time, Homework Time
If my children need help with homework, or are sitting down to do work, that has to be my priority. If I am trying to cook dinner, handle a work email or study Mandarin - any interruption might be irritating. If your child is about to start a task, ANY task that will possibly require your attention, don't pick up a task that will cause you frustration if you have to stop. This is one of my biggest mistakes. I always seem to think I can multi-task, but I have had to train myself (heck I am still training myself) to know that homework time is NOT the time for me to do pressing tasks. I need to be prepared and calm so I can be the best version of myself to enter homework time. That is what I help other parents work through in the homework playbook!
The Bottom Line:
Parenting is not perfection, and honestly, I feel sorry for anyone that feels it should be! We need to embrace our imperfections and celebrate how we overcome them! We want our kiddos to do the same; to treat themselves with fairness and focus on the steps to right the situation.
Dealing with students or our children can lead to monster-mom (or dad) making the occasional appearance. We can't stop it, I won't even try to encourage you to try! What we can do is tame it. These four suggestions to help you calm your frustration when dealing with stressful situations with your children or students. If you are interested in building your own Homework Playbook signup now for the wait list for 2019!
MA Counselor ED, ACC Academic Coach
Team Pasch Academic Coaching