Before you begin, ask yourself why you feel upset – Are you truly angry because the ketchup was left on the counter? Or are you upset because you feel like you’re doing an uneven share of the housework and this is just one more piece of evidence? Take time to think about your own feelings before starting an argument.
Discuss one issue at a time – “You shouldn’t be spending so much money without talking to me” can quickly turn into “You don’t care about our family.” Now you need to resolve two problems instead of one. Plus, when an argument starts to get off topic, it can easily become about everything a person has ever done wrong. We’ve all done a lot wrong, so this can be especially cumbersome.
Use “I” statements – When sharing a concern, begin your sentence with an “I” statement. This technique will help you share your true feelings about the situation instead of spewing blame which will often cause defensiveness.
“I feel ____________ when you ____________ because ____________.”
Use reflective listening – Oftentimes we focus on getting our own point across rather than listening. When reflecting, you will repeat back what someone has said to you, but in your own words. This shows that you didn’t just hear the other person, but you are trying to understand them. For example, you can say, “I think this is what you’re telling me, but correct me if I’m wrong.”
“I hear you saying that…”
“It sounds like you feel…”
“You’re telling me that…”
Focus on the problem, not the person – When a disagreement turns to personal insults, raised voices, or mocking tones, the conversation is no longer productive. Be careful to focus on the problem without placing blame on the other person. No put-downs, swearing, or name-calling. Degrading language is an attempt to make your partner feel bad.
Know when to take a time-out – When the conversation is becoming argumentative, insulting, aggressive, or is a repetitive pattern, it’s a clue for a time-out. The person who called for the time-out is the person who will call for a time-in when he or she feels calm and relaxed enough to continue the conversation. Spend some time doing something alone that you find relaxing. Focus on how you can make this a more productive conversation.
Work toward a resolution – Disagreement is a normal part of a relationship. If it becomes clear that you and your partner will not agree, focus on a resolution instead. Attempt to find a compromise that benefits both individuals. Ask yourself if this disagreement really matters to your relationship and let yourself move on, if not.
Dawn Schroeder is a professional counselor who enjoys helping people of all ages overcome life’s struggles. She also has a special place in her heart for working with children and teenagers. To learn more about Dawn, or to set up an appointment click here.
Traumatic experiences are in the headlines almost daily. It’s hard to not see it. Unfortunately, our kids see it too, and they don’t have the same reasoning abilities that adults do to understand, or not be overly scared about the things that happen. How do we strike a balance between letting our kids know and shielding them from the realities of our country and the world? How do we do that for ourselves? We have many skills in managing anxiety that may help. They are in categories of distraction, management of physical symptoms and thinking properly about the situation.
Distraction – this is more than just turning our eyes away from something and not thinking about it. It helps us have a manageable “bite” of what is going on. This might come in the form of putting down your phone or turning off the TV, it might be taking a few deep breaths, or it might just be focusing your thoughts on something else for a while. We can still think and do something about upsetting events even if we don’t constantly get the news, or are constantly talking about it.
Managing Physical Symptoms– when you feel your heart starting to pick up speed, or your breaths get more shallow, it’s time for some management. You will need to consciously take deeper breaths and exhale deeply, as well. This will help both your heart and your breathing. The idea is this: in order for your brain to function well, it needs oxygen. It needs other things too, but it needs the oxygen that we take in to be able to clearly think. The more oxygen you give it, the better it can perform for you. The more deeply you breathe, the better opportunity you give your brain to think of other options, be able to access things you know and commit them to memory.
Thinking Properly About the Situation – There are awful things that have happened all over the world, and we seem to get instant and constant information about it. If you are a “news junkie” you might consider how long you have been watching/reading and see if you have learned anything new in the last few minutes. If not, it’s time to give it a rest. Repetition is only going to cement it into your memory. Take a break, remember that you are safe in your own home and in your own location. Take some time to think about what you have seen and maybe pray about the situation.
Our kids need the same kind of help. Each parent needs to manage the amount of content their children see, the things they are thinking about them and if there are any negative symptoms after having seen or heard about terrible things. If your child develops nightmares or fears based on hearing about an event, then maybe they need to talk about it more with you. They might not be ready to hear about these kinds of news events. Remind your children that they are safe, remind them that you will always protect them, and remind them what we learned from Mr. Rogers – to always look for the helpers and see the good things that people are doing to make the situation better.
You will need to be available for your kids to answer other questions they may have. Teenagers usually have some understanding based on what they are learning about the event from school, but may need some guidance in how to proceed or integrate what they know. Elementary kids may need to do something to feel like they helped; like write a note, or draw a picture for one of the helpers. Middle school students probably need a mix of both. Again, it depends on your children, their maturity and the amount of exposure they have had to the event. Families can use these kinds of situations as a time to come together and discuss what happened. Talk about the issues that the situation brings up that relate to what they are learning. Is it about obeying the law? Is it about accepting someone that is different? Is it about different beliefs that people have? Use the events to start talking to your kids about important character development and behavioral implications of the tragedy around them. Who knows, maybe your child is the next first responder or news anchor who will be the helpers in future situations.
Stephanie Hamann, BS, MA, NCC, LPC – is a seasoned therapist with a particular passion for working with children and adolescents. She has been an anchor for the Center for Human Development staff since 2004. She reflects that “What I enjoy most about being a therapist is to see people gain new skills or understanding and move forward in life in a positive direction.” Read more about Stephanie on her bio page, click here.
I know I look small, but I need A LOT of interaction with other people just like you do. And the most important interaction? Interaction with my parents – you. And, well, the truth of it is… negative attention is way easier to get and lasts a lot longer than positive attention does. Positive attention is usually shorter and less predictable. So, I try to get the positive every now and then but it’s hard work and it usually doesn’t pay off, so I just go for what I know I can get.
How do I interact, you ask? Good question! Through eye contact, physical touch, and talking.
If I’m desiring eye contact, physical touch, and an exchange of words…
I know I can probably get all three by acting up.
I know that I can get them for as long as I want by continuing the bad behavior.
I know that, even if you are ignoring me, I can keep getting worse and worse until eventually you have to look at me, touch me, and talk to me.
If I’m desiring eye contact, physical touch, and an exchange of words…
I’m not sure if you’ll notice me quietly occupying myself over here or working hard on this project.
It almost seems like the quieter I am and the better my behavior is, the more I get ignored. I’ve heard you say, “Finally, some peace and quiet around here.” Then you look at your phone for a long time. I hate that!
Even if you say, “Good job on drawing that picture” the positive attention is over in less than 10 seconds and then I’m left trying to figure out how I’m going to get the other 29 min 50 sec of interaction that I need right now.
Mom, Dad, the good news for you is…
You are my favorite person.
I want you to teach me how you do all that cool adult stuff.
We don’t have to do anything super huge. I’d love to do almost anything with you if I can count on my Positive Interaction Bank getting filled in the process.
You can just hold my hand or rub my back for no reason. I love it when you do that.
I love your compliments more than anyone else’s.
I love your hugs and kisses more than anyone else’s.
I need you!
I adore you!
Your Little One
Corina Helgestad is a professional counselor who especially likes working with teen girls in such areas as self-esteem, cutting, suicide, depression, and anxiety. To learn more about Corina, or to set up an appointment click here.