For a lot of us lockdown is an opportunity to have more time with our children. This can be a lovely thing but can also mean added pressure due to less childcare and trying to stay on top of work. Spending time playing can help to reduce the feeling of stress, whatever age we are by putting us into a cortex lead state. This means that we are in touch with the intellectual part of our brain, helping us to bond with others, stay calm and access creative thinking. Find activities that you both enjoy to help us access this state of playfulness. Don’t be tempted to fake it! You also need to be in a positive, relaxed state for this to work.
Invest in High Quality Interactions
If we invest time in having enjoyable interactions with our children this helps to put them into a positive state where they are more able to engage in self directed activities. This is because they are in touch with the part of the brain associated with their most creative ideas and imagination.
If your child is bored it is more effective to spend time soothing and connecting with them so that they can find there own solutions than it is to offer suggestions which will most likely be met with resistance. Boredom can be viewed as the primitive mind blocking our access to creative or positive thought. It is associated with the freeze response which would have allowed us to hide from predators.
What is Behind the Behavior?
If our child is behaving in a way that we find difficult it may be because something is going on within their brain that they are not in control of. Rather than punishing them it is more effective to help them to return to a state of balance and offer them a strategy to self regulate. Sometimes however you may also be experiencing painful emotions, it is important that we avoid harming our children by taking steps to change our own state. We can sometimes do this in the moment by imagining a golden light around our child. At other times we might need to take some time away from our child in order to return to a state of calm. Screens can be useful in these moments!
Finding Our Way Back Into Connection
Your child will sense when your emotional state has changed and this can offer us a way into a more playful interaction. Eye contact will help your child to feel safe and connected. Humour or just being silly can be a great way of bonding with them. Being critical or repeatedly attaching negative words to someone can create an unhelpful feedback loop in our brain and even lead to a fight or flight response. To overcome this it is important to focus on their positive aspects, writing them down can be a helpful way to access them. If we are trying to break the habit of being critical you could try wearing a hair band on your wrist and swapping it to the other wrist every time you notice yourself making a negative judgement about someone. The physical act of swapping the hair band helps to disrupt the habit.
It is also important to be aware of how you talk about your child when they are not there, don’t talk any less kindly about them than you would when they were there. Complaining with someone creates a primitive mind to primitive mind connection by releasing cortisol. By communicating on an intellectual level we can connect in a way which stimulates the bonding hormone oxytocin. Having more time with your children at this time could be an opportunity to bond and create positive habits that will support you far into the future.
I go deeper into many of these subjects in my book “Balanced Parenting and Other Circus Skills” which you can buy here.
I also offer empathy and support in difficult moments, message via email@example.com to book.
This article is a summary of a conversation with hypnotherapist Orla Kirby.