When in doubt, remember
When you wonder how to handle that crisis with your child, stop. Remember: how would you have liked your parent to react to you, in a similar situation?
It takes a moment to shift from responsible adult to the memory of vulnerable child or curious middler or risk-taking teen. It’s a felt sense, more than a logical thought process.
Re-inhabit the child you were. Go small. Imagine your limited awareness, your feeling of anxiety that you were “in trouble” or that your parents were “going to kill you” or your disappointment in yourself that you had failed to live up to your parents’ expectations.
What did you want from them? (Ignore for a moment the temptation you have as a parent to teach lessons, or give consequences, or explain mistakes.) Instead, imagine the tone you wished your parent had taken, or the path to redemption your parent may have offered, or the help the parent could contribute to alleviate pressure or danger or lost opportunities.
Carry on an imagined dialog of how your parent might have handled a crisis that would have helped you. Or recall the caring conversation your parent did have with you that helped you.
Once you’ve helped yourself “re-feel” what it was like to be young and in trouble, make the subtle shift. Imagine how you might be the “parent-you-wished-you-had” for your child now, in her crisis.
We like to say in Brave Writer: Offer help, because help helps.
Be kind—even if you have to issue consequences, you can still do so with gentleness, kindness, sympathy, awareness of pain.
If you are looking for remorse or regret in your child and don’t see it, remember how most kids use hardness as a posture to ward off a parent’s intensity. If you reach out in the opposite spirit, you may catch your child off guard and find that he or she opens up to you or lets down and shows fear or anxiety or self-recrimination.
When in doubt, remember who you were, what you wanted, how you felt in crisis, and how you hoped your parent would respond to you.
Go and do likewise.
Cross-posted on facebook.