Updated: Jun 12, 2018
Ever have days when...
You wake up and your stomach just feels bad?
You feel cranky for no particular reason?
You had a bad dream and it seems to put your whole morning off?
You have a headache?
You wish you could just call out, and go back to bed?
The people you love the most only see your mistakes?
You just don't feel hungry?
You worry you aren't smart enough?
The people you love are fighting and disrespecting each other?
It's all just too much?
You wish you had your own place?
You feel so unappreciated, no one sees how hard you try?
Yes? You feel all these things from time to time.
So do your children.
Our children are small people. Everything we experience, they experience. Stress, disappointment, discouragement, frustration, being sad, annoyed, feeling out of sorts, not sleeping well, you name it they feel it too.
For some reason parents often discount or flatly dismiss the very real experiences of their children.
I can recall my father yelling at me as teenager. He was berating me and when I tried to explain that I was under a lot of stress he scoffed and said, “You don’t even know stress!”
We do well if we can take a step back and see the world a little bit from our children’s perspectives. Not everyone has the ability to step out of their viewpoint and stand in the shoes of another. Being able to do so is an important step in shifting our paradigm. It’s critical for developing empathy and there’s a magnificent little fringe benefit. If you can successfully see the world, the relationship from another person's point of view, you can identify the things you may be doing that are contributing to the behaviors you most want to change. It’s like getting a sneak peek at the playbook of the opposing team right before the big game!
I talk to and pray with moms who are mired in battles with their husbands and children. They are weary. Their children seem to be a constant source of anger. In a conversation I had recently the marriage was also very much “on the rocks”. Between those challenges and the constant managing of the children’s behaviors mom was at her wits end. She just wanted the kids to stop.
She said, “I can’t take this anymore. They just need to stop.” I offered her compassion and understanding but I had to tell her what was a glaringly obvious factor in the children’s behavior.
I’m sure with their parents bickering, not being kind, soft or loving toward each other the home was drowning in stress. They were experiencing it just as she was. I bet the kids would love to have the voice and the opportunity to say to the two of them, “We can’t take this anymore! Just stop!”
There it is. We tend to only think about our experience.
Whatever we are experiencing the kids are experiencing right alongside us and through us. They rely on us. They are connected to us emotionally. When we aren’t available they aren’t getting what they need. Negative behaviors will follow if not immediately, eventually. Parents will often say, it was rough several months ago but everything is fine now.
Children have survival instincts. Often they will not react to the stress they are experiencing in the midst of the stress. Only when the home calms back down and they feel safe again do we see many of their reactive behaviors emerge. They wait, many times until the coast is clear before they allow themselves the freedom to react to their emotions. Imagine that, they are coping and surviving, just waiting to express themselves and when they do, they are punished for it.
As parents we desperately want to believe that kids are resilient. We want to believe that they don’t notice what’s right in front of them. We elevate our responsibilities and the impact they have on our patience, our mood and energy and give ourselves a pass. All while simultaneously dismissing the impact on our children's patience, their mood and energy.
Everything doesn’t have to be in crisis for this to be true. Everyday life can be difficult enough. Children hear our phone conversations, about grandma, the family pet, the leaky roof, they read the room. They see their siblings and the discipline issues. They see and hear everything.
How they encode it all is beyond our control. We have to communicate with them to be sure they are coping well. Understanding that we are in control and they are safe. Kids have a tendency to figure out how everything that is wrong in the home is their fault. If we are having a phone conversation to manage something as simple as an error on a bill, our kids can think there is a financial problem. Perceiving financial problems is a serious source of stress for a child. As is observing and worrying about marital problems.
So many problematic behaviors have their roots in stress from months or even years earlier.
We need to be present. We need to listen and not dismiss them.
Homeschooling has "Home" properly placed at the very beginning of the word. Nothing is more important than tending the home life and the hearts of the people who are growing there, yours and theirs our children who are just beginning to learn to cope in the world experience these feelings too?
Using a Relaxed Approach provides more time to connect as a family. It gives us the ability to stay focused on our children and their development -their soul, their heart, their strength and their struggles. When we are too busy meeting artificial expectations, or running around trying to make our homeschool life look the way we think it should we can miss important cues from our kids.
Slowing down and being fully present and engaged in homeschooling calms a child’s spirit. It provides countless opportunities for gentle reassurance. We can explain and unravel what they may be seeing and hearing in the world. We can make them feel safe when we aren’t moving at the speed of light.
Whatever you are feeling on any given day, your kids are feeling too at times. Unlike you, they don’t have the ability to articulate it or the vocabulary to help you understand their complex emotions. You deserve support and compassion. So do your children. This is not intended to pile on feelings of failure. On the contrary. My hope is that you will come to see your children as kindred spirits. They are on this journey with you.
Learning to step outside ourselves to put our children first helps us realign and regain our priorities. Sharing and talking with our children allows us to hear the reassuring sound of our voice saying it will all be okay. Go back to the beginning and read that "ever have days" list one more time but try to imagine it from your child's perspective.
Homeschooling has "Home" properly placed at the very beginning of the word. Nothing is more important than tending the home life and the hearts of the people who are growing there, yours and theirs.