Reducing Tension and Anxiety

Tantrums & Moods

From HALT to FUEL

Steps to Reducing Tension and Anxiety in Parent-Child Interactions

It’s 5:38 pm. Dinner isn’t made. You’ve just walked in the door and the games begin. Everybody’s hungry, tired, and stressed out from a long day. These are what I call the conditions for chaos.

 All of us, and especially children, yearn to be heard, understood and accepted.

Chaos usually strikes between parents and children who become emotionally charged for a variety of reasons. Some children are more intense, and others more easy-going, just like adults. And, just like adults, children often behave ineffectively when ill equipped to manage stress, i.e., when feeling hungry, tired, stressed, overwhelmed or anxious. When tension enters the home, everyone feels out of control, potentially setting the stage for what feels like never ending hysteria. Since children and adolescents do not yet encompass the skills required to move from their heart to their head, and use reason and rationale to manage out of control emotions, it is imperative that we as parents learn to master our own emotions, understand our own triggers and at admittedly stressful times, approach the conflict in a calm, purposeful and controlled manner. This will drastically reduce the chaos for our children, which they often cannot reduce independently.

As both a parent and a therapist I’ve learned that all of us, and especially children, yearn to be heard, understood and accepted. When situations are emotionally charged, it only feels natural for both sides to be caught up in both an emotional state and a need to be right or “win,” holding the common belief that “they need to learn.” This leaves no room for shared understanding, breaking things down into manageable chunks, or seeing things from their proper perspective.

Generally every individual responds best to both warmth and feeling heard.

To resolve conflicts and problematic behaviours in a way that sets the proper example, promotes healthy self-esteem and personal responsibility:

GET OUT OF HALT, GET INTO FUEL

HALTHungry Angry Lonely Tired

FUELFulfilled Understood Engaged Loved

Assess everyone’s emotional state of mind. Be authentic. If any individual is overwhelmed or stressed (HALT), or is stuck in their emotional mind, identify the risk factors and to reduce vulnerability for further interpersonal or inner distress, pause the conversation, re-fuel and come back together when everyone is in a problem solving state of mind (FUEL). The more the individual is in a place of “HALT,” the more deeply and negatively they will internalize messages from others, and also the more likely they will misinterpret the messages altogether, creating greater distance and further contributing to the parent feeling “out of control.” Children and individuals who are more emotionally vulnerable, or “intense” are at greater risk of internalizing and misinterpreting messages as attacking their character (i.e. “I’m no good”) instead of as challenging problematic behaviour (“my behavior is no good”). Separating the child from the behaviour is paramount. For the child to understand that they are seen as separate from their behavior, they must be in a state of FUEL.

Stopping an emotionally charged conversation takes awareness, mindfulness, maturity and inner strength, and it is necessary to model this change to promote healthy self-awareness, effective interpersonal skills and personal responsibility. Now is not always the ideal time to resolve a conflict. Gathering yourself and letting the child know that you’ll talk again when the issue is less charged, models a powerful example of self-discipline and yields better results.

Generally every individual responds best to both warmth and feeling heard. When anger and frustration overwhelm you, in any interpersonal interaction, try this:

  • Take a breath
  • Soften your voice
  • Relax your face
  • Let go of all judgments
  • Listen mindfully without responding

You will get your turn. This is what being heard feels like. Model this for others, and expect the same in return. Demonstrating mutual loving-kindness and respect will always yield the response you set out to achieve, in all relationships.

This is a guide to help reduce chaos in the home and manage challenging behaviors. Taking these steps will put both you and the child in the position where you can problem solve together, identify consequences and change problematic behavior through the model most appropriate for that individual.

Here’s a subject that causes stress in kids; Acne & Puberty, read it here.

The general information provided on the Website is for informational purposes and is not medical advice.

Do NOT use this Website for medical emergencies.

If you have a medical emergency, call a physician or qualified healthcare provider, or CALL 911 immediately. Under no circumstances should you attempt self-treatment based on anything you have seen or read on this Website. Always seek the advice of your physician or other licensed and qualified health provider in your jurisdiction concerning any questions you may have regarding any information obtained from this Website and any medical condition you believe may be relevant to you or to someone else. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this Website.

Reducing Tension and Anxiety

Tantrums & Moods

Our Kids Need To Log Off And Get Moving

Do your kids come home from school, drop their backpacks, and hit the sofa for hours of TV, computer, or video games? Do they spend weekends messaging friends or updating their social media platforms?

Shockingly, Canadian kids log an average of just under eight hours of screen time each day – more time each week than their parents spend at work says ParticipACTION, the national voice of physical activity and sport participation. Further, the organization confirms that only 5% of our children are active enough to meet the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines, which recommend at least an hour of heart-pumping exercise or active play every day. You may think your kids are active enough, but the odds are stacked against it.

Excess screen time has been linked to obesity, declining physical, mental and emotional health, poor academic performance, behavioural issues, and less time for play. Can you imagine the boost to our children’s health if we substitute just an hour of screen time for active play every day?

Excess screen time has been linked to obesity, declining physical, mental and emotional health, poor academic performance, behavioural issues, and less time for play.

Encourage your kids to log off, head outdoors, and to enjoy more active play. Better yet, be an active role model and join them! These tips can help:

  • Help your kids understand the value of active play: exercise, a connection with nature, time with friends, feeling happier, increased energy, and an opportunity to try new activities;
  • Be a role model and limit your own screen time. Log off and give your kids your undivided attention;
  • Encourage a balance between homework and active time throughout the school year – even kids in high school need time to play;
  • Encourage your kids to invite friends over after school and on weekends for active outdoor play;
  • Remove TVs and computers from your child’s room – and have them power down all devices an hour or two before bed;
  • Watching TV? Be active at commercial breaks;
  • Let babysitters and teachers know you strive for a balance between screen time and active time and encourage them to do the same;
  • Advocate for more active breaks at school – some schools are allowing children to stand at their desks and are building physical activity into curriculum strands. The more our kids move, the better!

We struggle with screen time at our house too. Both my daughters (ages 13 and 16) have a tendency to turn to their devices the instant they find themselves with free time on their hands. Role modelling, stressing the importance of finding balance in life, helping my kids discover and pursue a variety of active interests, encouraging them to be their own transportation, and encouraging them to get together with friends, have all helped replace screen time with active time.
Is too much screen time a concern at your house?

How have you helped counter it?

Let us know your tips @DrDinaKulik and @Cate_Cameron.

Worried about playground safety? What to do when the weather is gross outside?

The general information provided on the Website is for informational purposes and is not medical advice.

Do NOT use this Website for medical emergencies.

If you have a medical emergency, call a physician or qualified healthcare provider, or CALL 911 immediately. Under no circumstances should you attempt self-treatment based on anything you have seen or read on this Website. Always seek the advice of your physician or other licensed and qualified health provider in your jurisdiction concerning any questions you may have regarding any information obtained from this Website and any medical condition you believe may be relevant to you or to someone else. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this Website.

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