In ten years of working with parents, there are two words that have never led our work astray, “Stay calm!” Most parents find themselves in trouble when their emotional reaction guides the conversation and the consequence. When emotional reactivity leads, several harmful consequences follow: your teen shuts down, you make threats you can’t (or don’t want to) keep, and the issue goes unaddressed and unresolved. When you’re navigating challenging topics with your daughter, the most powerful thing you can do is stay calm and allow the conversation to run its course. Your calm will ultimately set the mood.
Here are a few tips that will help bring a tranquil feel to even the toughest of conversations…
Create a “Hot Buttons” List:
- Hot buttons are those topics/behaviors that typically elicit reactivity from you. Examples of hot button statements are, “Everyone else’s parents let them do it!” or ” You never let me do what I want!” Your daughter’s mood also invites your reaction–her apparent depression, anger, or withdrawal can cause your mood to run off-kilter.
- Once you have identified the most common hot buttons, create an alternate plan of action. For example, the next time your daughter utters a phrase that typically provokes you, try validating her feelings. “This must be really difficult for you.” Validating the emotion de-intensifies the mood.
Build Your Reserve:
- What you do outside of the moment is just as important as what you do in it. Managing your self-care builds the reserve you need to wrestle with difficult moments.
- Do things that feed you. Exercise, spend time with friends, play with your dog, meditate, go on a date with your partner, or just take a few conscious breaths.
- Many parents make the argument that they don’t have time for self-care. Yet somehow when they practice self-care, it begins to feel like there is more time in the day…it’s magic!
Take a Break:
- When the conversation begins to escalate, that is your cue to step out of the conversation. Calmly excuse yourself and state that it’s better to address the topic when things feel calmer.
- Research indicates that it takes at least 20 minutes to calm down. Allow at least that amount of time (if not longer) before you return to the conversation.
- Always return to the conversation
- In volatile moments, remind yourself that your goal is to preserve the longevity and quality of relationship with your daughter.
- Recall loving moments with her. Think of a time that your heart was full with parental love.
It’s to be expected that as you begin the practice of staying calm that you will make mistakes. What remains important is your continued effort and motivation to set this tone in your home. “Keep calm and carry on!”