There are many children who could have written this. Some of their parents are together – and fighting. Some are divorced parents, or separated – and fighting. What could you say this Christmas that might be helpful for families that don’t get along together?
Yes, grown-ups fighting is one of the sad things that sometimes happens at Christmas. Sometimes it’s a heartbreak story, and other times it’s those little irritations when families don’t get along together. Here are some helpful tips when there’s the risk of adult conflict over the festive season. But first and foremost I encourage parents to ask themselves: ‘Is home a SAFE PLACE for my child?’
1. Make home a safe place
You’d do anything to protect your children – right? But where do your children turn for safety if you turn into the raging tiger? You’re not thinking about it at the time – but when you start snarling and roaring at your ex/partner/spouse you become someone who is unsafe to be around. No matter how angry you’re feeling, remember that your reaction can be upsetting for the children. It’s also never okay for your children to experience you being abused. If you or your children are in physical or psychological danger please get help immediately. Your children (and you!) deserve a home that is a safe place.
2. When temperatures rise, take a breather to cool down
When something happens that makes us feel unsafe, the survival instinct is triggered. The brain puts all its energy into ‘fight, flight or freeze’, so the thinking part of the brain temporarily ‘shuts down’. This means that when you’re in ‘fight’ mode you’re not thinking/reasoning. You may be trying to get the other person to ‘see reason’ – but neither of you is able to do this while you are upset. If you want to have a different outcome take a breather until you’ve all calmed down.
3. Your rising sense of anger is an indication you need change
But choose to listen to what your anger is telling you and figure out what’s helpful before your anger boils over into an uncontrolled rage. When someone’s pushing your buttons, take action to bring the change that’s needed whilst you’re still calm enough to think. Here are a few thoughts:
* Recognise: ‘Their behaviour is about them, my response is about me.’
* Sometimes what can be helpful is to use lighthearted humour – when you respond in a way that they don’t expect, it usually changes the whole game plan, providing you all laugh with each other (not at each other!)
* We can choose to deal with upsetting incidents without resorting to aggressive words or actions.
What else can help parents to stop the fighting?
For more insights on how to behave (children and parents!) in a way that’s going to create connection, I recommend popping Val Mullally’s Parenting book, ‘BEHAVE -What Do When Your Child Won’t’ into your own Christmas stocking.
* Remember that people who have already ‘flipped the lid’ or who have been drinking excessively have moved past reasoning. Don’t try to reason with an un-reasoning person. Just do what’s needed to calm the situation. Focus on keeping yourself and your children safe (emotionally as well as physically).
* Sometimes the only thing you can change is your own attitude. You don’t have to ‘bite the anger hook.’ At one point Val created a poster for herself with fish swimming past a baited hook and the words: ‘Swim on by.’
No-one ‘makes you angry’. It’s your choice.
Percy, sometimes families don’t get along, but if even one person chooses to do differently there can be a different outcome.
Of course every couple has a tiff sometimes, but what matters is not to let it get out of hand.
Before Parents end up on the slippery slope of anger, I wish they’d ask themselves:
‘Am I ensuring home is a safe emotional space for my child?’
May it be a peace-full Christmas.
Day 2 ‘Need’ or ‘Want’
Day 4 Christmas Surprises
Day 6 No Money This Christmas
Day 7 Christmas is for Giving
Day 10 An Attitude of Gratitude
Day 11 Can’t Forgive