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Here are some phrases that may work well during challenging conversations with your children.
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It is everywhere. The advice, the suggestions, the tips for parents, usually with a disclaimer that it is important to trust your gut, and to remember that there is no absolute right way to parent. This is true. A parenting style is personal, individual, and most of all ever-shifting. Classes and books offer a roadmap, but what about when you seem to get derailed and the map no longer holds true.
Parents often ask professionals for general tips and tricks for communication and with specific language to use in difficult moments. Here are some phrases that may work well during challenging conversations, and with a few small edits on your part (replacing simple language with more complex ways of communicating), you might find you can use a similar approach for children of any age.
Acknowledgement: Often the greatest reward that you can offer your child is your attention. To keep them focused, to build and maintain connection, and to model healthy communication, it helps to say:
Getting Kids to Talk: When you don’t know exactly how to get the conversation going, or when your child is reluctant to talk, try this:
Addressing Challenges: Children of all ages look to adults as a guide. They take their cues from us, and our voice becomes their internal voice. Our reactions impact their motivation, courage, and sense of self. When your child is frustrated or having a hard time with something, it helps to say:
Getting Kids to Help: We all know how wonderful it is to receive help, but how do we encourage children to respond positively to our requests? Most often, when we use the following phrases, we see positive results.
Disappointments and Strong Feelings: Children (of all ages) struggle to understand their emotions and explain them to others. We see them shut down, loose motivation, question their abilities, criticize themselves, and at times project their feelings onto those around them. Different situations, varying emotions (rage, anger, frustration), and specific environments (school, home, the grocery store) call for different responses to feelings. Honoring their emotions, putting the feelings aside, trusting that feelings change, and finding a way to not be defined by the feelings is complex. We can help them with this by saying:
Keep in mind that trying to have logical discussions during a time when your child is steeped in strong feelings is not easy. Take a break, wait until everyone is calm, and then come back together for a conversation. Feel free to contact us at Parents Place if you need help during especially tricky situations with your children.
Liana Unger, MSW, is Parents Place Coordinator in Sonoma County.
In addition to her role as Parents Place Coordinator, Liana is available for mental health consultations with clients. She specializes in anxiety, depression, mood disorders, relationship problems, treating drug and alcohol addiction, dual-diagnoses conditions, and psychosomatic illnesses. Her strength-based approach focuses on attachment and family dynamics with an integration of relaxation and mindfulness techniques. Aiming to support the whole person – mind, body, and heart – she weaves together traditional psychodynamic and cognitive interventions with mindfulness practices and somatic techniques.
At Parents Place, Liana balances her clinical skills with parent coaching and consultation and the Triple P Positive Parenting Program. A native of the Los Angeles area, Liana received her bachelor’s degree at Sonoma State University and her master’s degree in social work, with a family and children concentration, from the University of Southern California.
Parents Place is the Bay Area's leading family resource center. From everyday issues to challenges requiring specialized assessment and intervention, Parents Place helps parents, caregivers, and educators support children at all ages. Parents Place professionals offer parenting workshops, parent coaching and consultation, child behavior and school support, clinical and special needs services, parent/child activity groups, and child and family therapy. Join the Parents Place community online or in San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin, and Sonoma Counties. Parents Place is a program of Jewish Family and Children’s Services and serves families of all faiths. For more information, visit www.parentsplaceonline.com.
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