Expressing needs: calm down first

 

I wanted to start our expressing needs challenge with a quick reminder that it’s really hard to think clearly or have empathy for our families when we are physically upset (Dr. Gottman calls it “flooded”). If we notice that our heart rates are high and our bodies are tense,  we may need to start off by taking a good break. What is the nature of a good break? It is at least 20 minutes long. It is thinking about something else besides the argument. By the time the break is over, our bodies are physically relaxed, and our hearts and minds are calm.  

Helping kids to slow down and breathe...

Let's take a look at different ways that we can slow down with our kids to savor the moment together.

  • I recently discovered a book called "Breathe Like a Bear" by Kira Willey.  It is full of ideas for ways to teach little ones to breathe!  Kira is also a songwriter.  Check out her music on your favorite music player!  I've been enjoying "Bunny Breath" and others!  A few of her strategies include:
    • Pretending that we are drinking hot chocolate, taking sips and saying a long "mmmm" or slowly blowing it to cool it down.
    • Pretending that we are hibernating bears taking long, slow, sleepy breaths.  
  •  David Kisor also has some great songs like "Breathe" and "Smell the Flower, Blow the Candle Out"
  • I like to teach little ones to breathe by blowing bubbles and trying to see how big we can blow them!  

Fighting in front of the kids

When is it appropriate to fight in front of the kids?  In John Medina's book Brain Rules (Updated and Expanded), he talks about "One of the greatest predictors of performance in school turns out to be the emotional stability of the home... Given that stress can powerfully affect learning, one might predict that children living in high-anxiety households would not perform as well academically as kids living in more nurturing households. That is exactly what studies show. Marital stress at home can negatively affect academic performance in almost every way measurable, and at nearly any age... Careful subsequent investigations showed that it was the presence of overt conflict, not divorce, that predicted grade failure.” (Brain Rule #4: Stressed Brains Don't Learn the Same Way, emphasis mine).

Therefore, we can consider ways to reduce how much we fight in front of the children, and how we teach them conflict management strategies.  Some ideas:

  • Having a regular time when we bring up conflicts when the children are out of earshot, so that conflicts don't build up over time.
  • Looking for regular ways to express fondness and affection for one another, so that we can maintain the positive perspective.
  • Taking breaks to calm down so that problems don't escalate.
  • Focusing on keeping mealtimes positive, so that kids develop a positive association with eating.

If you think a certain topic may be upsetting to you or your partner, try to avoid talking about it in front of the kids. Wait to bring it up when you are alone.Starting at around age 4, we can have small disagreements in front of the children, but it is important that they see us physically make up at the end.  

Check out this article for more information.  

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