Archive for May, 2012

  • Blog
  • May 27th, 2012

Change is Hard! Successful Transitioning

The end of school, at every level, marks a significant transition for all parents and students. The transition from spring to summer is a seasonal change, as well as the end of the school year, and is also a transition from a structured schedule to a new or different structure and schedule, and increased demands and expectations at the next level.

In transition, most children “regress” before they “progress.” Therefore, “acting out” behavior is common when children are about to make a developmental leap forward. For instance, a Senior graduating from high school may engage in a ritualized Senior prank, which actually is a statement of DEVALUATION of the current environment (high school), as well as a REGRESSION to an omnipotent terrible two-year old state of “You can’t make me do anything.”

Adults commonly act out and regress when confronted with change or transition. An employee with five years of experience in a professional position, when moving to a new and more challenging promotion in another company or corporation, may decide the day before they terminate to tell their supervisor everything ‘wrong’ with their supervisory efforts, as well as the many things they don’t like about the company’s policies regarding employees. This is an example of both DEVALUATION and REGRESSION.

With children, it is important to recognize both regression and devaluation in the process of transition, in order to facilitate the process of PROGRESSION. Following are some useful tips for parents of students in transition.

1. Recognize when your child is “regressing” and meet the regression by providing and assisting the child with their current and basic needs. For example, “I don’t want to study for my exam tomorrow, and you can’t make me.” Parent response: “I know it is so hard to do. Can I make you some macaroni and cheese?” Meet the regressive tendency and provide empathy.
2. Recognize the natural tendency to devalue the current environment and relationships within it. Try not to join the student in this process. “I hate high school and especially my math teacher, who wants me to do extra credit work for my missed assignments.” This is a common sign of devaluation. Try not to join the student, and instead, assist them in meeting expectations.
3. Say goodbye well. Send a note with the child’s signature to the math teacher, thanking him or her for the opportunity to complete extra credit work. Show up, shake hands, and express gratitude for a job well done. Put together a party or outing for your child and their peers to wrap up the year and celebrate a successful completion and ending.

Recognizing that our natural tendency to regress and devalue in the transition process in a mindful and conscious manner is imperative. Empathically meeting the dependency needs of children in transition without devaluing the current environment is essential to successfully navigating a progression to the next step.

I wish you a successful transition from spring to summer!

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  • Blog
  • May 5th, 2012

How to Set Limits in Five Very Difficult Steps: The Internal Process

Setting limits with children and adolescents is HARD. It is a difficult process and for most of us, we don’t like to have to respond to limits, nor do we want to have to set them with our children and adolescents. Here are some steps to follow.

First, setting limits starts with an internal process, which involves setting a limit on ourselves. By this I mean our body and psyche, either gradually or abruptly, tells us that we can no longer tolerate a certain behavior or “attitude” from the other person. Listen to your body and mind. We may find ourselves gritting our teeth, raising our voices, obsessively thinking about the other person, or notice our stomach growling, as we ruminate about “what to do”.  Please pay attention to these signs or signals. They all indicate that you cannot tolerate a certain behavior any longer. So we must take action: “I cannot tolerate this any longer and I must do something.” Step one is complete by setting your limit from within.

Second, THINK, and target the behavior or attitude you want to address. For example, “You may not curse at me. I will not tolerate that language any longer.” Before you set the limit, pause, reflect, target the behavior you want to address, and state it to yourself and another supportive person, if available.

Third, calm and soothe yourself. Setting a limit is a very difficult process. Walk, pace, pray, meditate, and do whatever it takes to avoid being angry before you confront and set your limit. In this process, you are soothing the signals your body and psyche experienced and that emerged during the unpleasant interactions that occurred, which resulted in your need to set a limit.

Fourth, prepare yourself to mean what you say when you say it. Therefore, it is imperative to know beforehand what the consequence and directive will be. For instance, if you are going to remove a privilege, make sure you have control over the resource. Hint: we cannot control other people; however, we can control a resource. For example, “I will no longer tolerate cursing at me, and I am removing your privilege to have a cell phone.”

Please be confident that your child will give you the phone, and be prepared to remove the device and/or eliminate the service. Be confident and prepared that you will do whatever it takes to ensure that this will happen. Fortunately, most children know or sense that you mean what you say and what action you are willing to take. This is the benefit and result of your preparation in the previous steps of listening to your body and psyche, calming and soothing yourself, and targeting the behavior to confront and the action you are taking.

Fifth, follow through with your limit AND allow for restitution. You have control of the resource (e.g., cell phone), and will return it when appropriate language is used for a certain length of time. “When you use only appropriate language for three days, I will return your phone. However, if you help me wash the car (directive) this afternoon and have a good attitude, you may have the phone back in two days.”

Washing the car is allowing for restitution to be made, gives the child some “control” in the situation, and enables your child to alleviate some guilt and shame they necessarily carry for behaving in offensive ways.

Setting limits is almost always a difficult process, as they (the limits) are almost always challenged. It is inherent in a child to test; therefore, it is essential to prepare and to be calm before you confront and take action.

I learned a long time ago that we cannot control other people, however, we can learn how to set limits when someone else’s behavior is inappropriate or offensive.

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