Children Are Disappearing…
How to Pull Them Back When Your Child Feels Distant
Give Them Space
No one likes to be shoulder to shoulder,
Strangers breathing down your neck,
Crammed in to … anything!
Why do We seem to think sometimes that this works any differently with children?
Constant nagging, droning on and on, same thing all the time.
Sometimes we need to realise what’s happening, and even drop some expectations!
By focusing on just one or two different changes at a time we can give our children a bit of a break.
The hardest part, when it’s attitude. . .
– Smile at the Crocodile
Attitude is typically either a warning, payback, or a cry for attention.
So what’s the best way to respond to it?
1. We make sure it isn’t a warning, a sign of a bigger issue. We think about anything else going on, or that could have added to this moment. Then we decide how to correct the behaviour.
2. We make sure it isn’t just a cry for attention. If it’s just a crafty way to get attention, ignore it… Don’t give bad behaviour the time and energy, as tempting as it is!
3. Is this payback for something? Did you just take away a choice? Was there a consequence recently? Are you suffering from a case of “teenage wrath”?
Forget it. Pretend it didn’t happen. In fact. That’s step 4.
“Pretend it didn’t happen! Literally smile at that crocodile (and it’s tears)”
Once we have done a quick trouble shoot this is the only way forward.
Be sure to come back and talk about what happened later, when everyone has calmed down!
– Take the Time
In those calm moments, when everyone is settled, we can talk about what has happened. Sometimes things aren’t that simple though, let’s have a break (have a kitkat).
Why push something that isn’t moving?
We can talk with our partner, a parent, a friend. Anyone.
We can plan for the next time this happens.
We can think about what to say when we do address the issue.
We can relax…
We can breathe…
We can… calm down . . .
If it’s long term change we are after, slowing down is a massive advantage!
We can think clearer about what we do,
Pausing in a conversation becomes a normal thing,
Taking time to calm down gets modelled to the children, and we can begin expecting the same from them. Better yet? We have given them space, avoided the attitude, and they will still want that attention (they are just frustrated that their scheme didn’t work!).
Give Them Attention
Now we can gauge where they’re at, then give them that attention. Reconnecting can be done a number of ways. Whatever it is you come up with, move into talking to your child so that they can get their thoughts and side of the story out!
As they tell their version of the story, hold the impulse to correct the events. This is best kept for later in the interaction, and there are many soft ways to do that (more on those soon). Listening is about allowing your child to express THEIR ideas, so inserting ourselves is only going to backfire (resulting in a shut down, or short answers usually).
We want to slow them down, and truly understand what they are thinking and feeling about what has happened. By digging in deeply we can decide if these were one offs, or more pathological, more of a character trait.
Rephrase what you heard them say, put their words into your words. Ask them if you have heard the correct message. Major on their emotions, and again… try to not trouble shoot. This is all about our child expressing themselves. The more this happens, the safer they will feel, and the more the will ask for our advice!
– Accept Them.
The safer someone feels,
the more accepted
they realise they are.
With our children, acceptance is even more important than we realise.
As we grow, experiences have shaped how we think. We have gathered data, interpreted that data, then come up with probabilities that we use to decide which actions are going to serve us best. Much like reflexes, we see that a cup is falling, our brain does some computing and tells our hand where to move to stop the cup, and our hand closes as we reach the cup, saving it from smashing to the floor. In our minds, we take in all of the data around us, run some calculations, and decide what to do next.
Our children though… They haven’t got as many examples and experiences to run through in their minds. They haven’t got all of the data to make good decisions. On top of this, they haven’t had many experiences, and are going through things for the first time A LOT!!!
There was a day here, my Daughter was convinced that her mother was angry… but I knew otherwise, she was sad. It clicked… A lot of the times that our daughter thought my partner was angry, my partner was sad. The interpretation? Almost everything I do makes mom angry, I should hide whenever I mess up… So now my partner is sad that she is being lied to, and our daughter is trying to avoid being told off because she thinks her mother is angry all the time…
Accepting our children where they are, letting them know that, and trying to eliminate the miscommunications validates them, it shows we accept whoever they are becoming. We literally sat our daughter down and explained that how we feel about her never changes, but that we get annoyed at the behaviours sometimes. It felt really cliché until we did it! At 14 and a half she understood well, and was able to have a good conversation about how she used to feel, and how talking it out helped her realise that it isn’t about her as an entire person. This just further deepened the relationship, giving us options when it comes to consequences.
Give Them Options
Options are good in everything, as long as there is a plan behind them. When it comes to parenting, options create the illusion of choice at times.
– The Power of Choice
Illusion or not, choices are powerful. Choices shape our futures, what we do today impacts what we do, and how we feel tomorrow in a massive way. By giving our children more choices we are allowing them to shape their own lives. At the end of the day, they are the ones who need to live with their choices long term, we can grit it through at worst (not that this is any way to live).
Some people believe that majority of the choices should be made by the children, my argument there is simple. Depending on the situation, I believe the choices should be made completely by the parent. From here, we can move the responsibility slowly on to the child, and when they are failing we can bring that responsibility back onto ourselves.
To put that differently, As the child grows we can allow more and more freedoms. These freedoms are really just our boundaries opening up, allowing more choice and autonomy. Because I do this by talking with the child, the boundaries can also come back in, and control can be taken away if there are issues in the area we are working on.
This approach empowers our child to make healthy choices. Couple this with some research from your child, and you have a future competent problem solver on your hands! Allowing our children to make choices and suffer through the consequences is like fertiliser to plants. They lap it up and grow, and sometimes they grow feral, nothing a little pruning won’t fix though. That’s another reason we move our boundaries. They become their own deterrent.
Being a teen, there just aren’t many years left to teach our child. The boundaries and consequences keep her on track as she wants more and more freedom. When these boundaries don’t work it’s simple. Be consistent with the consequence, and keep stacking the days on each other. They’ll come around… given enough time.
Give Them Time
Time. The 4 letters I seem to type the most!
Just like everything else, with enough time and effort any stubborn thing can change… even people!
– How Do You Heal?
Children are just little people, so how do people heal? Time. Cuts grow over, breaks mend and grow stronger, cut hair seems to never stops growing back! Emotionally I think most of us see the same thing. Time helps heal.
Allowing our daughter time to heal has been invaluable, in the short and long terms!
From day to day it could be an attitude or something thoughtless we have said. She will go a little quiet, and then begin to reconnect with us. When it’s obviously safe she will open up and talk about what happened, and more and more this is happening unprompted!
When it’s a deeper, more long term issue that is bothering her she will ‘joke’ about it, ask questions around whatever it is, straight up discuss it, or ask about similar experiences we have had.
Since she has started doing this, her growth is amazing.
She has dealt with a lot, and now we can see her becoming her own confident person.
All I can say is that it’s amazing. Empower your children every chance you get 🙂
One other thing while speaking about healing, don’t allow your children to use sickness as an excuse. Headaches, stomach issues, sore legs, broken bones, mental health issues, all of it… Have them do as much as is still possible. Instead of pandering to them, find out how much they CAN do. This will help grow the resilience that most people seem to be missing these days!
Leave space for your children, let them be alone.
– Time to be Me.
With so much noise and distraction and activity and opinion everywhere it’s easy enough to lose ourselves,
Now imagine trying to find yourself in this noise!
Children these days are more likely to turn into walking memes.
the alone time
that we discover ourselves!
With 8 hours a day at school and about 8 (to 20) hours sleeping, we are left with anywhere from -4 hours to 8 hours a day of possible interaction with us. If there’s a tv or screens, with jobs and homework, this number decreases even more. So is it any surprise that a lot of us end up not knowing the greasy creatures living with us?
Yes, alone time helps us find ourselves, but let’s make it alone… not with the entire internet chilling in their minds.
Have your child doing tactile things. Art, music, sports, playing in the sliver of a yard a lot of us have, find them some hobbies. Even reading can be good for self discovery, just make sure you actually know the content of the books (it avoids unpleasant surprises later on).
Give Them Understanding
Whatever unpleasantness they get in to as they grow, try to have some understand.
Being so much older, and the way technology keep evolving, we are going to need to let our children guide us into their world. Ask the questions, look the fool, learn something new, it might even turn out to be useful. Get into your child’s world!
– Ask Questions
Invading a new world is much easier with spies, so let your children play double agent. They know the way around, they know some shortcuts, they know the language… let them bridge the gaps!
This could be with their music, games, shows, books, friends, school, hobbies, literally any and everything. Always be asking questions.
The more we are communicating, the more we will know as they grow.
Another great way to get into questions is to allow them to ask us questions! Tell your children that the next day you will give them some time to ask you absolutely any question, and that you will do your best to answer (because sometimes adults can’t explain everything for different reasons). Giving them time to think things up usually leads to better questions, and by limiting it to a time you won’t be asked everything all day!
– Take Them Seriously.
Giving our children time to think also shows that we are taking them seriously.
We aren’t just rushing them, not bulldozing them, we are factoring in that they are young and learning. Showing them that they are heard and respected, being taken seriously, sets the standards for how others will treat them.
If we are going to tell our children to be quiet, to be seen and not heard, to not get in the way then they are going to look for some of those same qualities in a partner. They won’t realise that’s what’s happening, but they will feel draw to the familiar and comfortable. The best defence against useless boyfriends and girlfriends is to treat your children with an ever growing level of dignity and respect.
The biggest place this counts is when they tell us something. No matter what it is, take it seriously. Even an implications or thought you have should be taken seriously.
When my daughter was joking a lot about people dying it was because of grief and fear. By noticing this I was able to just start giving her a hug every time something like this came up. It took a couple of weeks, but she opened up and was finally able to talk out what was in her head and bothering her. She was finally able to heal.
If that “joke” was just ignored each time, then it could have taken much longer to begin that healing process, leaving her with more and more damage. Take everything our children say seriously, it could be more serious than it first seems…
There we have it, How to Pull Back Distant Disappearing Children.
Let me know below which of these stuck out for you!