No doubt you have been home during this period of lockdown for about 40+ days by now. It is understandable if keeping your kids on track, entertained, with some semblance of a healthy schedule is beginning to take its toll.
Maybe you have had a blow up or two or ten. Maybe Susie has permanently escaped to her bedroom and phone. Maybe you have wanted to pull out your hair, scream or wring someone’s neck. Not that you would of course, but are you going through the day feeling resentful about all you do around the place with little to no help or contribution from your dear loved ones??? Are you sick and tired of your child’s backtalk and sassy mouth? Have you had it up to here with Johnny’s refusal to take responsibility for his own actions?
If so, You. Are. Not. Alone.
If your head is filled with frustrating and negative thoughts about your kids that just seem to spin around and around and never go anywhere you are not alone. Everyone else is talking about beautiful family together time. Working puzzles together. Learning a new hobby together. Landscaping together. Going on walks. Homeschooling. Organizing. Adjusting fine to the new normal. Not you? You’re just trying to survive the Teenage Thunderdome of Quarantine?
There is a way to reset.
It’s not too late. Things can and will get easier.
Here is how you do it, in this order:
Take Responsibility for Yourself. I know. This is not fair and a huge pill to swallow. You are doing everything already why should you have to own up to anything at all. After all, you are not the person with the bad behavior. Trust me. Do it anyway. Take some ownership of something you have been doing lately that you know, deep down inside, has been driving everyone crazy. Nagging? Shouting? Using harsher than normal words? That’s okay. We all reach our breaking points. Just own it. Yes, face to face, with your teenager. Tell them what you’ve been doing and how you’ve been feeling. Be honest. This step is best done one on one. One parent to one child.
Avoid the Argument. After you take responsibility for yourself, you might be on the receiving end of some blame and criticism. If it’s respectful and you are not an emotional punching bag, that’s okay. Listen. Don’t throw anything back. Your teenager really does need to purge their negative feelings on a regular basis. Think of it like a pressure valve. Releasing this pressure is going to come back to you in so many positive ways so help them let it out.
Find Out What They Need. After they have sufficiently discussed what was bothering them, ask them to identify three things that they feel would really be helpful. This is not cart blanche to have three things exactly they way they want it. It must work for everyone. See if you can work out a compromise. Then follow through. Meeting these needs cannot be an empty promise or your relationship will not repair.
Ask for what you need. Pick three things you really need. You probably need a hundred things, or maybe a thousand. You need people to clean up after themselves, show appreciation, do their schoolwork without complaint or excuses, and get out of bed when you ask them. But just pick three. Three realistic, concrete and specific things. The more specific, the better. If your child is resistant and can’t get bought in helping you achieve these three things, return to step 2 and try again.
Warm It Up. No doubt, your negative and ruminating thoughts have seeped outside of yourself into your relationships. It might not have been an overt act. You might consider yourself pretty good at keeping yourself under wraps. Guaranteed, your kids feel this negativity around you on a daily basis. You are going to have to work towards pointing out the positives you see, complimenting the things you like, and trying a more playful and easy going approach. Try doing something out of the ordinary, or something pleasantly surprising. You will be amazed at the mileage you get out of it. If your child is amenable to it, a tickle fight, or a pillow fight, usually does the trick.
Spend time outside of problems. Let’s face it. It’s hard to want to spend time together when that time is consumed with arguments, bickering, or sullen silences. Once you’ve successfully completed steps 1 through 5, now is the time to do something together “outside of a problem.” The goal is to provide enjoyment for everyone. If this is a challenge due to difficult behaviors, start small. Do something for one hour together. Maybe it is just one on one time with your child or maybe you will need to include others. Whatever you decide to do it and for however long it lasts, commit to making the time problem free.
Let them have the last word. This will help you at all times, not just during relationship repair. Just let them have it. They want it. They are great at it. For you to win this battle, the ensuing escalation will cause the exact opposite of relationship repair. You don’t just have to suffer in silence. You can still make your point without all the back and forth. After they have just contradicted what you have pointed out, just say these words “I’m glad to hear that.” You can still make your point without receiving agreement and you can sidestep the argument.
For example, you have just told Johnny that he needs to clear his dishes from the table and put them in the dishwasher (something he never does without being asked no matter how many times you ask him) and Johnny responds with an attitude saying “I knowwwww,” or “I willll.” You now have a choice to launch into a tirade about how he never clears his dishes and you either have to tell him 20 times or do it for him. Or you can simply choose to tell Johnny, “I’m glad to hear that.” Johnny has gotten the message. He will want to have the last word and tell you that he “always clears the dishes.” You can respond “I’m so glad to hear that Johnny” and then let him be the last person to speak on the matter. Escalation of problem averted, provided he gets around to clearing his dishes.
Repeat. Repeat these Relationship Repair steps frequently and apply liberally to smaller and smaller problems for best results. Letting bad feelings build up over time will cause the relationship repair process to be more challenging. If neglected completely you are in danger of losing your relationship altogether and may need to seek temporary outside help to fix.
Get Help. If you are feeling like the relationship with your child is broken beyond repair, seek professional help. If you are feeling like you are living in a war zone with your child a ticking time bomb, please seek help. If your child is routinely disrespectful, defiant, verbally or physically abusive, please consider making an appointment with someone who specializes in adolescent and parenting issues. These behaviors can also be corrected with effort combined with the right type of expertise.
Get a consult: If you're not sure whether you need to seek help or not, give us a call for a free consult and a referral. We can point you in the right direction.