The Emotional Climate of the Family
Part 1 of 3 (Part of the Family Climate Series)
by Tracy Lamperti, LMHC, BCETS
“It is very hard to be mad at someone when you are engaged in a ‘REAL’ hug!”
Often times, our children are the thermometer for how things are going in the family. I don’t mean to blame any parent for a misbehaving, depressed or anxious child. There are many times a parent seeks my services and by all accounts, the parent is doing “everything” right. Then again, I could give a good many examples of how my own child’s troubles could be directly tied to parental mismanagement (my own) and/or parental stress (my own).
Notice the trickle-down effect.
“The farmer in the dell
The farmer in the dell
Hi-ho, the derry-o
The farmer in the dell
The farmer takes a wife….”
Just think of it like this, only substitute “takes” with “kicks” and start with “the dad kicks the wife…wife kicks the child…child kicks the dog…to dog chews up the teddy.
The parents set the tone for the family. Some will think I am old fashioned or stereotypical, but I go so far as
to say the Dad sets the tone. Of course, in a single Mom home, the Mom most often sets the tone, unless there is a strong tone presiding with a Dad who is out of the home.
You better believe that an unhappy parent rubs off on the other parent, who rubs off on the children, who rubs off on the pets or classmates at school.
Think like…”mason jar…mason jar…mason jar…”
When you are in a foul mood, be it angry, tired, annoyed, depressed, anxious…when you are around your children, think like you are putting all of that in a jar and screwing the lid on tight! It will be there when you want to come back to it, IF you want to come back to it. With whatever strength you possibly have, bottle it up when you are in front of your children. Let the little ones be little ones. They sense everything. And even if they are in those magical self-centered years, where they really don’t even seem to notice you crying, or
fighting with their father, if you don’t exercise the muscle of restraint now, you will take this for granted when they will enter a stage where they do notice.
Model the behavior you wish to see in your child and provide a lot of good examples
You may have seen the bumper sticker, “Be the change you wish to see in the world” cited as a Ghandi quote. Well, not exactly, (see http://www.elephantjournal.com/2011/08/be-the-change-you-wish-to-see-in-the-world-not-gandhi/). But none-the-less, that is the idea here. I have noted time and time again in my own home that it is far more effective to correct my own misbehavior than to try to correct the same type of behavior in my children. Even when a bad atmosphere has gone on way too long, still, the best remedy is to correct it in yourself first.
Let your child be a child. Don’t talk about adult issues in front of them.
And spelling things out is just plain weird, not to mention, insulting, even if your 3 or 4 year old doesn’t realize you are insulting them.
Have family meetings regularly. Try to save it for dessert.
It’s awesome to set up a family dynamic where you have family meals (a least a few dinners ALL together per week), with dessert. Everyone wants to rush these days, either to get the children to bed for some “me time” or the zillions of other things that still need to be done.
Once again, the Dad sets the tone. He can be INSTRUMENTAL in setting the tone for family meals and keeping children positively engaged at the table.
Children will eat a better meal, keep a better attitude and most importantly, WANT to stick around for that positive family time, even when they are 16. See my earlier post on Family Dinner Night.
Carry down traditions or make new ones that your children will carry down.
We want our children to be anchored to a positive family. Engage extended relatives in helping your children to learn about traditions. Make new traditions. Give your children something to talk about with people at school or in the rest of their environment that has to do with their “apple picking” experience, or “fire pit
marshmallow roasting on the first day of winter.” It doesn’t have to be Disney or other elaborate experiences. Family meals are becoming a novelty these days.
Don’t be “soft.”
If you said, “The next time you…..(fill in the blank)…., you are going straight to your room!” then do it. Children do better with order than they do with chaos. Provide them with the structure they need for learning about life and their world. Misbehaved children are not as happy as well-behaved children.
Kindle feelings of love and support. Hug often, share stories and struggles from you day. Ask each other how you can help them with something difficult. It’s very hard to be mad at someone when you are engaged in a “real” hug.
“We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.” ~Virginia Satir (widely regarded as the "Mother of Family Therapy")
And…if I can be of any help, please do delay another day in asking! A few sibling sessions, or parent sessions, with the right therapist can be just the ticket to an improved climate.
Tracy Lamperti, LMHC, BCETS
Cape Cod Moms