Stressed-Out Kids: Learning to Deal with Life's Ups and Downs
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3. Create Rituals That Connect
The average American parent spends twenty-two minutes a day interacting with his or her child. When we're stressed, the odds are that we spend even less time. William Doherty, author of The Intentional Family, says, "In today's stress-filled world we have to intentionally plan family rituals that bring us together."
Terry was a single parent who worked full-time. She didn't have a lot of extra time for "nurturing and. connecting" with her child. Morning with her two-year-old daughter Tamara were a nightmare. Initial!' Terry would get herself up, shower, dress, and then wake Tamara. She'd change Tamara's diaper, dress her, and give her a quick snack. Within fifteen minutes they'd be out the door heading for child care. Bu Tamara hated it and screamed in protest every morning. She wanted to play. She wanted to be with her mother. By the time they separated a child care, both of them were in tears. It was a lousy way to start the day.
In class Terry recognized that her daughter's difficulty separating was a stress behavior very typical for her age. She realized her daughter needed more connection time with her, but she couldn't figure out how to fit it in.
David, another parent in class, suggested that she just try to make this normal routine special. He explained, "When Gayle and I were expecting our first child, we were talking with my brother and his wife. Gayle was going to nurse and take a six-month leave from her job. I was going to be working more overtime to make up the difference. My sister-in law said to me, 'Oh, David, then you'll have to make bathtime your time with the baby.' I have to admit I found her advice more intimidating than inviting. I had never taken care of a baby, much less bathed one. So when my son was born, I approached this task very tentatively. And it wasn't easy. My son's a very sensitive kid. He didn't like being undressed for his bath. The water had to be just the right temperature, and washing his hair was a major feat. But I kept working on it. By the time hi was a year old he trusted me. He'd hold his little washcloth over his eyes while I washed his hair, and we'd splash together. I'll always be grateful to my sister-in-law. The connection was worth it, and because bathtime is Daddy's job, we make that connection even during the busiest times."
Terry took David's advice. Instead of waking Tamara at the last minute, she woke her earlier and plopped her into the bathtub with her yellow duck. Tamara had always loved her bath. It soothed and calmed her. While Terry did her hair and makeup, Tamara played and chatted with her mom. When Terry was finished, she dried off Tamara wit fuzzy towel, dressed her, and ate a quick breakfast with her. Forty-f minutes after waking, Tamara would exclaim in delight, "Let's go see my teacher!" Terry hadn't done anything that she wouldn't do during a normal day she'd just done it differently. The connection of bathtime the morning brought them together, eased the stress of separation, and allowed them to start their day with smiles instead of screams.
When you're stressed, your family needs those connections me than ever. When it's time to make dinner, try to work together. Put t preschoolers up to the sink and let them scrub fresh vegetables or wash the pots and pans. They'll love it. Older kids can mix up the muffins, s the table, dim the lights, and light the candles. There's nothing like candlelight to settle things down.
Look around you. What needs to be done? How can you do together? That's the key be together. If the laundry has to be folded, why not dump it in your child's room and sit and fold it while he falls asleep. You'll get the laundry done, and he'll get the connection that r needs so he won't have to cling. Need to pay the bills? Give your child all the junk mail to open up and play office with while you're working If your child is older, invite him to bring his homework to the dining room table so you can sit together as you both work. Push the fears am hassles of the day into the back corners. Don't let those forces pull you family apart. Consciously create rituals that bring you together in good times and in bad.
More on: Behavior and Discipline
From the book KIDS, PARENTS, AND POWER STRUGGLES: Winning for a Lifetime by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, published by HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. Copyright © 2000 by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. All rights reserved.
Buy the book at www.harpercollins.com.