Marriage and Family Therapist, Kelly Hoffman, stopped by with helpful hacks to bulletproof our relationships -- especially with our kids.
Parenting Hacks: Tweaks and Props to make your relationships with your kids bulletproof
Most people feel like relationships just happen to them, and that people with great kids, marriages and careers just got lucky somehow. It isn’t luck, its skill and learned behavior, and just like every skill, you need practice to get it right. Here are some easy Hacks that will instantly strengthen your relationships and even make them bulletproof. (Description of Kevlar and why it is bulletproof)
1. The feeling jar: I had a client whose son focused on the negative. We set up a system with two jars, one for good feelings, one for bad feelings.
GOOD FEELING JAR: She told her child to put a cotton ball / pom pom into the jar when he felt good or bad.
Then every day, sometimes more than once, she asked her son about what happened to fill the Good feeling Jar.
By discussing the good feelings again with her son she was training him to do what I call “happy rumination” which is basically thinking and daydreaming about things that make you feel good, and it is one of the characteristics of happy, resilient people.
Making the time to think about the positive started training this boy that the positive was important to focus on, think about, and enjoy. It started teaching him resiliency.
Additionally, since Mom was involved with the happy rumination, Mom was included in the son’s good feelings, and his attitude towards her became more positive.
BAD FEELING JAR: The other jar was where he put a cotton ball whenever he felt a negative emotion, sadness, anger, even just “uncomfortable” (which is kidspeak for unhappy). I wanted the sad jar because this child was trying to stuff his emotions and was not connecting with what he was feeling. This was keeping him from feeling anything, good or bad. By putting the symbols in a jar he was acknowledging his feelings, but in a safe way, “containing” them in the jar.
There was a second step to this. When the mom saw the bad feeling jar get fuller, she had a specific task - She was to go to the jar and ask about what the cotton balls represented. Sometimes he had an answer, sometimes he did not. Then she was to take each cotton ball in her hand and say 3 positive things, things she absolutely adored about this little boy, as she placed the cotton ball into the positive jar.
This mother reported that the first time they did this her son’s face just lit up, she could see that immediate shift. Over time we worked on helping her ask questions of her son so he could come up with the positive “turn around” feelings on his own.
We didn’t want him dependent forever on his mother to be his only source of comfort, but it was entirely appropriate for her to be the source of his learning this skill.
2. “I caught you doing good” Journals; Take a notebook, make it special, maybe have your child decorate it if they are younger, maybe purchase one that they think is cool looking if they are older, or just use a notebook, that doesn’t matter as much as what goes into it. Make a daily habit of writing down the things your child does well, and that you are proud of them for, things you saw them struggle with and over come, things you see them work hard on. Once a week, have a special meeting to go over the week’s successes. Not only will your child benefit from hearing sincere acknowledgment of their good work from you, you will begin to notice the good even more, and the good will grow because it is a universal rule that whatever you pay attention to you get more of.
3. Create Special Family Artifacts: Celebration Plate and Talking Stick
4. Use a checklist: Happiness checklist, together time checklist
5. Post Family Beliefs/Inspirations: Chalk boards, white boards, pin boards, or just tape a paper to the wall. Make a visual representation that you all see every day that reminds you all of your commitment to being a team, to being friends, to being a family.
Just like exercising every day will make your body strong and in shape, exercising the elements of happy safe relationships will build the little “bulletproof” fibers your family needs to be strong.