Talk to Me (or someone you trust)

Have you ever wondered what your child was thinking or feeling, and gotten frustrated when they weren’t able (or willing) to talk to you about it?

My oldest son is getting to the age where he is starting to hold back on what he shares with my husband and I. He is willing to ask questions and come to us when something is really on his mind, but struggles to talk to us (or his caregivers or teachers, etc.) when he is frustrated or upset. In these instances, his go-to strategy has been to express his frustration with a grunt and closed fists, or to simply walk away. While I appreciate him being aware enough that he knows he needs to calm himself done before responding, I yearn for him to talk to me (or my husband, or his caregiver, teacher, etc.) to tell us what is going on and why he is getting so frustrated, angry or upset. When he doesn’t or isn’t willing, I feel helpless to help him. It’s feels awful.

We enrolled our son in a camp that was recommended to us to help with these types of struggles. When I picked him up following a day of camp his counselor came over and shared that he refused to participate and talk to them during the day. We discussed how we could get him to open up. The camp, which is outdoors-focused, runs a MineCraft project for their participants. They set-up a project the kids can work on, and help them with their social interactions. My son heard about this and wanted to join. We saw an opportunity to help him get what he wanted (to ‘play’ MineCraft) while helping him open up and better express himself when frustrated or upset. “I’ll make you a deal. You tell your counselor what is bothering you tomorrow, and we’ll consider letting you play MineCraft,” I offered. “Okay,” my son quickly replied. The following day, he eagerly greeted me and said, “Mom, I told the counselor what was bothering me today!” He was excited about it (I’m sure his excitement was around the possibility of him playing MineCraft increasing, but I’ll take it).  I told him that I was glad to hear it, and I’d talk to the camp counselor about how to get him set-up to play with the other participants. My husband and I are not necessarily video game fans, but thought this was about as good as we could hope for as an introduction to the gaming world. As my son and I were leaving I reiterated why it was so important he not keep his thoughts and feelings to himself all the time. “We can’t help you if you don’t talk to us. We don’t know what you’re feeling or thinking. We can’t read your mind. But we can help you when you are willing to tell us. Make sense?” “Okay, Mom. I’ve got it.” We’ll see if this works, but it feels like we’re heading on the right path. I’m feeling a little less helpless.

How have you gotten your child to talk to you when they were reluctant to do so?

Cool It Now

How do you keep your cool?

Growing up in the southeast, I dreaded the heat that accompanied the summer months. I was grateful for the rain that would cool things off in the afternoon (this was a daily occurrence where I lived), but never cared for the muggy weather, where you leave your air conditioned residence only to be sweating up a storm by the time you reach your car that is only a few feet away. In the past, air conditioning and pools helped me keep my cool. Where I am now, it’s mostly fans and finding shade wherever I can.

The heat reminds me of those times when we feel hot, not because of the weather outside, but when you are feeling angry or frustrated. When you feel this way and it’s hot outside, yikes! It can feeling hot to a whole new level.

My son was recently playing with a friend. A comment was made that was interpreted as an insult. Being young, instead of stopping what they were doing and to talk about what was said, things escalated. My son’s friend pushed my son, and my son pushed him back. Quickly the teachers intervened and helped the kids work through the issue, reiterating physical force is not the way to solve a problem.

I talked to my son afterwards. He was embarrassed about the incident, and mad at himself that he reacted the way that he did. I told him it was normal to have feelings and needing to get them out. That he (with my husband and my help, along with the teachers) would need to work on strategies for how else he could handle the situation differently going forward, in a way he’d feel good about. I asked for his input. He suggested that instead of pushing, he would use his words. While admirable, I realize that while this sometimes works it doesn’t always. I suggested he also give himself the opportunity to cool off (or find some cover, shade if you will, to cool down from the heat he was feeling). What about if you took a deep breath to calm yourself down, or you just walked away? He appeared to have an ‘aha’ moment. He had more options than just using his words. I encouraged him to continue to think about other responses he could put into practice in the future. In the end, I reminded him that learning is part of growing up, and my husband and my job is to help him with that.

How do you help your child cool off when their temper is high? How do you cool off when you are angry or frustrated?