Let’s face it. It’s all about them… and by “them” I mean your kids. All kids are ego-centric. It’s developmentally appropriate for them to live in that space. Empathy is a developmental process that involves a part of the brain that is one of the last areas to fully develop. And it takes empathy to step out of your own shoes and into someone else’s.
So naturally (at least for them), when the family is relocating, it is absolutely, positively, completely, totally about THEM!! Included in this “ego circle” are YOUR emotions as well. Many times the stress we parents all feel during times of transition (both big and small) are internalized by our kids. Our frustration, short temper, and sheer exhaustion are perceived to be their “fault.” Even when we are doing a good job holding it all together, our kids can’t “see” our internal processes so it is helpful to do our thinking out loud from time to time.
A deep sigh when you have accidentally cooked dinner too long to be edible can be translated by our kids to mean they have somehow caused a problem. A deep sigh followed by, “This is so frustrating! I think I need to take a few deep breaths to figure out what to do next” is a clear indication that they are not on the hot seat and it role-models using coping skills and problem solving rather than letting emotions rule the roost.
On the other hand, when they are the cause of a problem, externalizing your emotions and thought processes helps them understand how their behavior impact you. In addition, when you focus on regaining your cool rather than acting in anger, your kids will focus on their own behavior (and its consequences) rather than focusing on your anger.
For more information on helping young children develop self-regulation, read this article from Young Children magazine. For more information on emotional regulation for yourself, read this article in Real Simple.
No parent should move without a written game plan to help your children deal with the difficulties they face when moving.
For more information about the Moving Families Initative, please visit www.movingfamiliesinitiative.com.