With any great change kids adjust just like the rest of us. It just seems we like to try to hold kids to a higher standard when it comes to these life changing events. When my Dad got sick last year I was angry, heartbroken, frustrated, sad and not to mention the thousand other things I was feeling at the time. I cried at a drop of a hat. I lashed out at my husband. I was exhausted. I was eating pie for breakfast, chips for dinner and cold pizza as a snack. With a role model like that it was no wonder Munchkin was clingy, downright mean sometimes, peeing her pants and a host of other emotions. But, I still remember feeling frustrated when she did those things.
We are now experiencing some of that once again with Mom and Pup-Pup moving in. Our routine of 3 people has now been expanded to 4.5. We haven’t been as diligent about our rituals and routines. Our house is slightly more chaotic. And this all has an impact on our smallest member of the family. I can see her testing the boundaries and wondering, “Will I really get in trouble with Nana sitting right there?” See, she knows front stage and backstage as well. She has a new defiant glare. She has also started the “If Mama and Daddy say no, let’s try Nana.” All of this on top of the normal 4 going on 5 stuff that a parent encounters.
In times of change or crisis, we most of the time just figure it out on the fly. There is no time to consult blogs, experts, articles and such because you are just trying to survive. But, this time around I can be a little more intentional about how we handle her adjustments. I can use some of what I learned last year and also what the world wide web can offer. So, here are some of the things that worked for us in the past and we are trying now as Munchkin adjusts and tests every ounce of our patience.
We expect our kids to listen to us. But, I think sometimes we forget that we must also listen to them. They speak a different language than us though. They cannot express the anger, sadness and frustration they are feeling in the same way. They scream at you and then chunk their favorite toy at your head. My first inclination is to lose my cool. But, she is telling me something and I need to listen. Last summer my baby girl was also broken about how sick her Granddaddy was at the time. She was not acting defiant to spite me or make life harder she was simply dealing with the change in the only way her little mind knew how. And, she is doing the same now and I need to listen.
2. Work with them in how to express their frustration
Last year this was difficult because she was still 3 and it would really be asking too much for her to sit down and think about how she was reacting. But, this year I can talk to her about why the specific way she is reacting to the change is not good and suggest other ways to deal with the chaos. So, with this is a mixture of both listening and correction. Munchkin responds best to these talks after she has time to calm down which I will make her to go her room to do. We still need reminders and follow up but she is more capable of listening and correcting her behavior at this age than she was last year. But, I have to remember it will take time and patience which are short when you yourself are also stressed out.
3. Make time for just you and your child
This has probably been the most effective for us. Last year it was simple ice cream dates or just going outside and playing when I couldn’t leave the house. This week Munchkin told Nana point blank that she didn’t want her to come to the pool that she wanted to go with Mommy only. As Mom wisely told me, we just need to let her tell us those things and not make her feel like there is anything wrong with that request. Munchkin needs the security that she can make those requests without fear of hurting anyone’s feelings.
4. Make sure you are taking your own time
This is something I did not do last year. I rarely left the house the house on my own. If I left the room the baby monitor was right next to me so I could monitor every sound Dad made. If I left the house my phone was in my hand. But, this time around I can take more time for just me. So, some days I leave work an hour early and just go walk around a store. Or, I will write in my journal in the local park and then come home at my regular time. I also need to remember that J and Mom also need that kind of time as well. When we are relaxed our children take their own cues from that feeling. I know, easier said than done but in order for all of us to keep our cool we’ve got to take this time.
5. Keep laughing
My Dad taught us that humor can do a lot in a situation. When I want to blow my lid I have to find the humor in the situation. My Dad even did that as we were facing his death last year. I have to remember this when I want to pull my hair out on rough days. I’m not as easy going as my Dad was (okay, understatement of the year), but I need to try to relax and calm down as our household gets back into a routine. Dad would always try to get me to slow down and see the humor in life. I need to constantly remind myself of this or I can work myself into a nice little rage.
I am also going to try a new behavior chart I saw a colleague doing with her child who is the same age. This visual reward system may work well for Munchkin. I’m scouring the internet to find other ways to help her to learn healthy skills at adjusting to the curve balls life throws. What have you done with your own child in times of change to help them? Help a mother out!
Until next time…