Being a parent is HARD work, and it involves its fair share of conflict along the way! Do you ever find yourself wondering what to do after you have lost your cool or you and your child have experienced conflict? Maybe you are feeling stuck in a swirl of frustrating and painful interactions with your child. Perhaps anger and harsh words are defining the relationship more than understanding, respect, and connection.
Research has found that in any relationship we will have many moments of conflict and that conflict is not what sets healthy relationships apart from unhealthy relationships.* The distinguishing factor of healthy relationships is that there is consistent reconnection after the conflict has taken place. This is good news! No perfect parenting required!
Today I am going to equip you with four steps to reconnect with your child after conflict.
Four Steps to Reconnect with Your Child:
- Be the first one to apologize – it has to start with you. You are the bigger, older, wiser, mature adult on duty!! You might say,“ I’m sorry that I used my angry voice when I asked you to put away your toys.
- Take responsibility for your actions – be specific about what was not ok about what you did or said. You might say, “I was frustrated, but it’s not ok for me to yell at you when I feel that way. I am going to try it again and use more respectful words this time.
- Give your child some space to feel their feelings about it (sometimes when we feel hurt, we need a few minutes to cool off before we are ready to step back into the relationship). You might say, “I understand if you feel upset and want some space. I will be in the kitchen and will listen if you want to tell me how that made you feel.”
- Offer Reconnection when they are ready. Offering reconnection communicates to your child that the relationship is safe and that you can move back into connection and playfulness. When it’s over, it’s over!! You might say, “Whenever you’re ready, just let me know. I would love to play a game or help you work on your homework.”
Additional Reconnecting Phrases:
- “I shouldn’t have said that. I was wrong. Can we sit down and talk about what happened?”
- “I’m sorry, can I try that again? I think I need a re-do.”
- “I was frustrated, but it’s not ok for me to yell at you like that. I’m very sorry.”
- “I can tell that hurt you. I want to change that. Can we talk?”
- “I got distracted. I want to hear you. I’m listening. What you are saying matters to me.”
- “I got pretty defensive there, I’m sorry. Can you tell me again?”
Benefits of Reconnecting:
- Reconnecting teaches kids that everyone makes mistakes. Moreover, it gives children permission to admit when they have done something wrong.
- Reconnecting teaches kids how to take responsibility for the things that they have done that have hurt others.
- Reconnecting teaches kids to recognize and care about the impact of their actions on others.
- Reconnecting moves us back toward relationship, connection, and play.
When children don’t have consistent experiences of reconnection after experiencing conflict, it damages the relationship and the child may begin to withdraw, isolate, and experience feelings of shame and unworthiness. We may also begin to notice that they lack feelings of remorse in relationships and aren’t able to admit when they have made mistakes. Ultimately, it leaves children without this critical skill to take into their future relationships with friends, spouses, bosses, and children of their own.
Don’t remain stuck in a cycle of conflict without reconnection with your child. Call me today and set up an appointment to explore how you can move toward reconnection with your child.
*Disclaimer: Research indicates that the cycle of conflict and reconnection can make relationships stronger, as it builds trust in the relationship. However, this does not include toxic conflicts such as emotional or physical abuse or neglect. These, in no way, make relationships stronger and merit the attention of helping professionals.
Child & Family Therapist | MA
I work with parents and children to build bridges and lasting connections so that your family can continue to grow, play and explore together.
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