The dog days of summer are upon us, which brings blissful afternoons at the pool, best friend sleepovers, exciting family vacations, and often a lot less patience from parents.
It’s usually by this time each summer that parents start losing patience with the late bedtimes, sibling fighting, and constant kid mantra of “I’m bored.”
We wish we could re-write the parenting classics with new titles, like:
“Siblings with LOTS of Rivalry”
“How to Talk so Kids Will Listen, and Listen so Kids will Stop Arguing and GET OVER IT!”
One of our parenting tools that often needs a refresher this time of year is how to let our kids have feelings without convincing them they’re nuts.
When we are frustrated, we often go to battle with our kids helping them see how unreasonable their feelings are and offer them evidence to the contrary.
This leaves them feeling not heard or acknowledged and only makes them say it louder.
What they say: “I’m bored, we never do anything fun.”
What we want to say: “What?! I just sucked it up and played horse family with you for an hour and yesterday we spent all day at Schlitterbahn!”
What we can say that would actually help: “That horse game was fun, and it’s hard to quit a fun game. Let’s make a plan to play again later.”
What they say: “You always let Jenny have friends over, it’s NOT FAIR!”
What we want to say: “Are you kidding?! You had a friend over YESTERDAY! She hasn’t had a friend all week! You’re being totally ridiculous.”
What we can say that would actually help: “It’s hard to watch someone else having so much fun. You wish you could have a friend over also. How about you and I find something to play.”
Remember, kids don’t need a reason to feel something, just like you and I don’t either. We can feel sad, or peaceful, or overwhelmed for no reason at all. We often spend all of our energy trying to figure out “why” we’re feeling blue and less time forgiving ourselves for feeling that way.
Just feeling a feeling is enough of a reason to make that feeling valid. We don’t need evidence or reasonable explanations to make our feelings justified. It’s enough that we feel it. Period.
Our kids have the same permission. They can feel all sorts of “unreasonable” feelings. They can feel bored, tired, happy, angry, lonely, scared….just ’cause.
Let your kids (and yourself, and your partner, and your friends) have all of those “unreasonable” feelings. You can hug and comfort those you love even if you don’t understand the “why” behind their feelings. It’s enough that they’re feeling them.
Because truly, that’s what “unconditional love” is all about. We love each other just because we do, no matter what, regardless of how “reasonable” we are at the time.
We all yearn for compassion and understanding when we’re upset, no matter how big or little we are. So, let’s put away the evidence, ditch the pie charts, stop our data collection, and just offer a hug.