Reflecting the online webinar “making sense of troubled kids”
The other day, Benny told me:
“Jeanne, I’m going to have some work to do for business tonight. This whole month will be very intense as we will be moving the business until the end of the year.”
I told him this was all right and I took care of the kids.
hen Benny asked me a question, I reacted somewhat edgy and short. I felt overwhelmed by the thought that December would be a rather lonely time in which most of the duties would be on me. But I knew that Benny would soon be moving and I knew how much work was still waiting for him. So I thought I had no reason to feel that way and tried to overshadow my feelings with my understanding.
When it was time to put the children to bed, Benny approached me and asked:
“Jeanne, what is wrong with you? Are you all right?”
“Yes, I’m fine, thank you.”
was my somewhat snappish answer.
“Jeanne, I don’t want to place too much strain on you. If you need me and you want me to spend the evening with you, I am happy to postpone the work to another time. You are of more importance to me!”
I felt caught… but also known, loved and fetched.
This evening, in his arms, I could not only relax and recover from the emotions that had built up in me; I could also feel again: I was free of this fear of spending the month with an emotionally (and physically) absent husband, of being abandoned in this beautiful (but hectic) time of Advent and of having to let him go to work even more than I usually do.
My emotions of impatience, irritability and detachment disappeared as soon as I could talk to him about my feelings (even if they were, in my opinion, not justified because I understood his situation).
We can now face this month together despite all the reality of moving (and the hustle and bustle of Advent). I try to give him as much freedom as possible and at the same time he takes times in which he is present, where he invests and participates in our family life.
Reflecting on this experience, I realized how much these last three articles on “Making sense of troubled kids” are applicable not only to our children, but also to our own lives.
How our own “difficult behavior” involves more than a “mood ” that needs to be overcome.
While summarizing and correcting the three articles on “Understanding Difficult Children”, Benny and I had a lot of time to rethink the application in our own family.
In our daily interaction with the children we found ourselves confronted with the topic again and again.
We noticed the following points:
1.) It is pretty challenging to not use binding as a weapon!
Several times we caught ourselves with the fact that we sent the child away from us when it had gone beyond the limits:
“If you can’t behave properly at the table, you have to go outside the kitchen” or
“Go sit on the chair in the kitchen and figure out what you’ve done.”
while we were united as a family in the living room.
While reflecting on these articles, we decided that in the future we would try it differently; instead of sending a child away, we would react differently depending on the child:
- We take it on our lap and hold it. We tell him how much we love him, but also that we do not tolerate such behavior.
- We put it on the chair in the kitchen, but stay with him to make sure that he knows that his behavior doesn’t change the fact that we love him and stand by him.
Just today we had such a situation:
As parents we were still sitting at the table while our third was already in the corridor playing with building blocks. Our youngest, who had just experienced frustration, ran directly to his older brother and destroyed his building block formation.
Benny could now have said:
“What are you doing there, go straight to your room”!
Instead, he took our youngest and took him on his chair with us. After a first protest, our son calmed down and Benny reached out to him and together they thought about how our four-year-old could deal better with his frustration next time. The final scene was that our little one was sitting on his father’s lap, clinging closely to him and enjoying his closeness.
2.) Playfulness and humor
In the last article we saw how emotional playgrounds help our children to come to rest and feel again.
This point helped us a lot to live out more lightness and playfulness while eating together.
We had some meals at which we had to decide how to deal with our children’s behavior: to exhort them and to create “order” – or not only to allow playfulness but to be an active part of it.
The impact on our children was enormous – especially for our third one. He flourished and was much more present during the meals together.
We enjoyed these “emotional playgrounds” at least as much as our children and were able to create several unforgettable moments together.
This brings us to the third point:
3.) “Settle down and just be”
Benny and I have always imagined how much we would have enjoyed it in our childhood to simply be together on a Sunday afternoon as a whole family in the living room. Often, everyone is doing something different: playing, reading a book, painting, etc. The atmosphere of “family life” and “being at home” triggers something in each of us that is almost impossible to describe with words.
Bridging was also something that we consciously (and increasingly) applied.
“I wish you a nice morning at school, I am looking forward to having lunch with you”,
“Sleep well now, tomorrow is weekend, we can spend the whole day together”,
“I am going to a meeting now, but when I come back I’ll give you a good night kiss while you’re sleeping”,
“Have fun at the birthday party, I am looking forward to hearing everything about your time”…
The possibilities are endless and create intimacy and belonging.
Our children reacted very positively and it was much easier for them to fall asleep, for example.
Again and again we encountered situations in which we could see the depth of the seminar on the topic:
One day every second week I oversee the lunch table at the school our kids go to. Our eldest told me one day:
Mommy, are you at lunch again this week?
When I affirmed, he said:
“This makes me happy! If you’re not there, I’m not really as hungry. I love it when you are there, then I feel so relaxed and I’m always very hungry!
It is an exciting path that we have chosen. We are always aware of new facets of the topic. We also notice how many mistakes we make again and again. Child upbringing is a process in which you have never finished learning. The beautiful thing about it is that children always give us a fresh chance to do better.