Triggered by Your Child: Finding Hope Through Actionable Steps

Triggered by Your Child: Finding Hope Through Actionable Steps

Triggered by Your Child?

Finding Hope Through Actionable Steps

When your childs challenging behavior triggers your rage_parent coaching can help solve difficult behaviors

Are you a parent triggered by your child?

 

No one can push your buttons the way your child does. But for some parents, interactions can feel more overwhelming because your child not only pushes your buttons, but triggers uncontrollable reactions in you.

When a parent feels triggered it can come out as anger. It may feel like you have a shorter fuse and that you explode more or become aggressive. Sometimes it comes out as avoidance. Feeling like you can’t stand to be in the same physical space as your child or interact with them. And sometimes it comes out as giving in or giving up. Feeling like you can’t possibly win. Feeling so exhausted you question if you can do anything right so you simply chose to do nothing.

No matter how you react, the end result is the same. You feel like you are failing as a parent. Like parenting is incredibly hard and frustrating. And often times it leads you to feel like you don’t want to be a parent to your child.

And then you have the guilt for your thoughts and your actions. And you feel alone because no one else seems to have these struggles like you.

 

You are not alone

 

I know that feeling because it is a feeling I used to get a lot when my eldest was young. For me, my child triggered my anxiety. Whenever they began to spiral I could feel my anxiety rising. And as a result I would try to control the environment to keep my child from becoming triggered. Because it was the only way I thought I could keep myself from becoming triggered.

Because when I became triggered I became angry. And when I was angry I was not the parent I wanted to be. And my child, who was struggling with their own anxiety and overwhelm, could not have access to the regulated parent they needed in those moments.

I knew I was not helping my child and that I was hurting our relationship. But I couldn’t figure out how to not get triggered by my child. And for me, I felt very upset and defeated after I was triggered. Because before I had my eldest I was laid back and handled pressure well. I couldn’t figure out how I had gotten to this point of dreading my child’s reactions or how to break the cycle.

So what did I do? Well it took some time to recognize that my child was actually a trigger for me. That it was more than just getting on my nerves or pushing my buttons. They were causing a very intense, uncontrollable reaction in me. And that because of that reaction and how much I dreaded it, I was doing a lot to try to avoid or minimize my child’s triggers. But what I did not discover until later was that all the work I was doing was acutally making things worse.

Once I realized I was being triggered I needed to reflect on how I wanted to live and parent. I took a hard look at how I was parenting. And I realized that I was putting a lot of effort in, but not getting the results I wanted. In short, I was doing a lot of accommodations, but still being triggered a lot of the time.

That caused me to realize that if I wanted something to be different I was going to have to do something different. Because what I was doing was not working for my child or for me.

 

A place for hope

 

Being triggered by your child does not make you a bad parent. But it does make parenting harder. A lot harder. So if your child is triggering you, you are not alone. And while it can be a good idea to work with a therapist or counselor to discover why you become triggered, this article is about the things you can do right now to break free from being triggered by your child.

These things all take time, so give yourself some grace and understanding. Behaviors don’t change overnight. Just keep showing up and doing the work. That is how you make changes.

 

Breaking Free of Being Triggered By Your Child

 

1. Understand your body’s reaction – it is not just in your head

 

Your body is having a biological reaction to your child’s behaviors. When your child has a big reaction, or you have an intense memory of how your child reacted the last time, your fear center becomes triggered. This is a normal reaction anytime you experience someone’s anger or when you feel threatened.

When your fear is triggered, you react in a very biological way. Your survival instincts kick in and that means your thinking brain shuts off. So you have a harder time regulating yourself. Meaning you are much more likely to escalate up right along with your child who is upset.

So how do you interrupt this biological reaction?

You need to remember to practice coping techniques. If you are becoming triggered you need to take care of yourself first. Regaining your calm is necessary to be able to effectively calm down your child. Try taking deep breaths, removing yourself temporarily from the room if it is safe for your child, or naming your feelings.

By practicing coping techniques you can regain control over your body’s reaction and bring your thinking brain back online. Once you are able to think again it becomes easier to problem solve solutions to help your child as well.

 

2. Understand it may not be your child who is causing you to be triggered – it may be you

 

When your child hits certain milestones or ages, it is natural for you to remember your childhood at that age. Depending on your experience, your family interactions or how you felt at that time it may cause old feelings and trauma to resurface.

And what a lot of people don’t know is that trauma can be caused by both big and small events. And it varies from individual to individual. Trauma can be caused by invalidations or criticisms that get repeated over and over, often without anyone being aware that any harm was being done. In short, trauma is based on your individual response to an event that you found overwhelming and that you could not fully process. So it is not uncommon for your parenting to bring up trauma that you did not know existed.

That is why when our child behaves a certain way or reminds you of when you were young, your childhood feelings reemerge. And the tricky thing about trauma is it blends time together. What happened in the past and how you felt gets mixed with what is happening now and how you feel now. Making it hard to realize your emotions and triggers are coming from the past.

So how do you move past a trauma you didn’t even realize you had? This is where mindfulness, yoga or Qigong can help. Each of these tools helps you to breathe and focus on the present moment. And when you can breathe and bring awareness to how your body feels in the present moment you can begin to separate out the past from the present. Yoga and Qigong can be especially helpful if your body needs movement in order to focus on the present.

By practicing a form of mindfulness you are creating space to notice and question your feelings. What are you feeling? Why might you be feeling this? And when you can answer these questions you can then make an intentional decision about how you are going to proceed. And that ability to be intentional has the power to change your interactions with your child and their interactions with you.

 

3. Instead of avoiding being triggered, work on interrupting your triggers

 

It is easy to get into the habit of trying to avoid your child during certain time periods or events. Or to bend over backwards creating accommodations in hopes that your child will not trigger you. And it is easy to say you are doing it to keep the peace and make things easier for everyone. But it’s time to ask yourself if it really is easier.

Chances are your avoidance is leading to more behavior issues because kids tend to escalate behaviors if they feel they are being ignored. Or you are actually spending a lot of your time and energy on making accommodations, with little results.

So what can you do?

Practice the STOP mantra. When your child is escalating and you feel like you are going to escalate right along with them 1. Stop 2. Take 3 deep breaths 3. Observe what you are feeling and 4. Proceed with intent.

The importance of breaking the avoidance habit is because avoidance is not a long term solution. Emotions that are not dealt with do not go away on their own. They usually resurface later with more intensity. The key to moving past your emotions is noticing what you are feeling. And moving past your emotions is critical to forming new behaviors for you and your child.

 

4. Choose to practice empathy and compassion for both your child and yourself

 

When you become triggered as a parent, parenting gets 10x harder. So acknowledge your struggle. Tell yourself that this is really hard right now. And tell yourself you are doing the best you can right now. Practicing this kind of self-compassion can help you shed any guilt or shame you are piling on top of yourself. It also lets you experience a little kindness when you need it most.

But don’t forget about your child. It may be hard to do as your child is triggering you, but remember they are a child. They are not trying to make you upset. They are trying to communicate they are struggling and that they need help. It’s just neither of you are at your best right now.

Remind yourself of these things and you will find you are able to be more empathetic to your child. And empathy leads to connection, understanding and patience. All of which help resolve behavior challenges faster.

 

5. Work on repairing your relationship after you have been triggered

 

No parent is perfect. All parents yell. All parents have said something to their child they later regret. What happens during an escalation doesn’t matter nearly as much as what happens after the event.

Repairing is the act of acknowledging your actions and making amends for them. In order to do this, you need to acknowledge your part in the escalation. This means you let your child know how you were feeling, why you reacted the way you did and how you could have done better.

Repairing is critical. Not only does it teach your child valuable relationship skills, but it helps you put your emotions and reactions into context so you can recognize and learn from them. It helps to create awareness and accountability, which can help you change your future responses.

Repairing also helps protect your child from trauma because it gives them a chance to process their feelings and emotions about an event.

Final Thoughts

 

Parenting is never easy. Especially if your child triggers uncontrollable emotions in you. But becoming triggered is something you can change.

If you are triggered by your child and need help or support, I invite you to schedule a free 30 minute chat to talk about how parent coaching can help support you and your child.

A Parent’s Guide to Understanding Child and Teen Vaping

A Parent’s Guide to Understanding Child and Teen Vaping

 

A Parent’s Guide to Understanding Child and Teen Vaping

 

Parents need to know the dangers and truths about vaping

Ask a child if cigarettes are dangerous and almost all kids will say yes. Ask a child if vaping is dangerous and you might be surprised by their answer….

 

Kids often believe vaping is safer than cigarettes. And with the fun, fruity flavors and clever packaging, child and teen vaping is now more common than cigarettes.

 

But the truth is, vaping can actually be more dangerous to a child’s health than cigarettes. This is why talking with your child or teenager about vaping should be a conversation you have early and often. It’s a good idea to begin having conversations about the dangers of vaping in the elementary school years because studies show students begin self-reporting vaping and exposure to vaping during the middle school years.

 

The Dangers of Vaping

Helping adolescents understand the dangers of vaping from an early age will help them make better choices

Health Concerns

 

Vaping flavors create lung irritation and compromise the body’s immune response. Irritation of the lungs and other organs is especially prevalent in the popular mint and cinnamon flavors.

 

In addition to nicotine, which is highly addictive and can lead to behavior and learning problems in addition to various health problems, e-cigarettes also contain heavy metals and small particle chemicals which also negatively affect the brain and vital organs. As you can imagine this can be especially impactful during the adolescent years when the brain is going through a lot of changes.

 

The belief vaping is not as dangerous as cigarettes

 

Ask and you will find out that most kids think vaping is safer than cigarettes. In fact some kids don’t even realize vapes contains nicotine. They think it’s just vaping flavored water. But the truth is almost all e-cigarettes sold contain nicotine.

 

And not only does vaping contain nicotine, it greatly increases the amount of nicotine you are exposed to. Smoking a cigarette you inhale about 1.1 to 1.8 mg of nicotine per cigarette, meaning you have to smoke an entire pack (all 20 cigarettes) to inhale about 22-36 mg of nicotine. For e-cigarettes, the amount of nicotine per device can vary, but generally they range from 20 – 60 mg, so the potential nicotine exposure from one device can be the equivalent of 2 ½ packs of cigarettes.

 

The belief fruity flavors are no longer available

 

While a ban on all flavors was an original policy proposal, the policy that ultimately passed only banned flavored e-cigarettes in closed e-cigarette cartridges, such as those produced by JUUL. All flavors are still available for refillable or disposable vaping devices, including the very popular Puff Bar.

 

The belief that vapes are hard to get

 

The truth is teenagers can easily buy vaping products off of the internet. And those vapes will be delivered to your house with a text message notification to your teen that it is coming. And since most sellers do not include markings on the packaging to indicate what is inside, it makes it easy for your teen to hide the contents from you.

 

Additionally, products like Puff Bars, which give the same number of puffs as 20 cigarettes, can be purchased for as little as $4. And that low price point makes it much more accessible.

 

And just because you don’t think your teen can or will buy vapes does not mean you are home free. Teenagers often share devices at social events, where it is common for there to be social vaping activities, such as who can make the biggest cloud.

 

It can be just the beginning

 

Studies show vaping can be a gateway product, with users sometimes continuing on to cigarette use and THC (cannabis) use.

 

Vaping THC, also known as dabbing or using a dab pen, is also more likely. Vaping THC is especially dangerous because the concentration of THC is higher than smoking it any other way. And just as nicotine has significant negative effects on the developing teenage brain, so does vaping THC.

 

Kids often view cigarettes as bad but vaping as harmless. It's time to bust that myth.

Vaping warning signs

How can you tell if your child is vaping?

 

Vaping is a lot harder to spot because it does not smell like cigarettes and the devices are cleverly made to resemble things like highlighters, flash drives, pens, etc.

Here are a few warning signs to be on the look out for:

  • Behavior changes
  • Weight loss
  • Sweet fragrances on clothing or backpack
  • Change in grades
  • Secretive behavior

What you can do to help keep your child safe

 

Start having conversations early and often

Open communication about vaping and its dangers is key to helping your teenager.

If you watch a movie together, read an article or see someone on the street vaping or smoking use it as a way to start a conversation. Kids are more receptive to a conversation where they haven’t sparked the reason for the conversation. You can start with this short 6 minute video provided by Allina Health and their Change to Chill initiative if you need a jumping off point.

 

Allow your child space to talk and ask questions

 

Some kids really do not know that vaping is dangerous. They need to be educated and given information. Be honest about the statistics and your fears, letting them know you care about them. Most kids readily accept that cigarettes are bad so give them the facts to learn vaping is just as bad.

 

Talk to your child about why you don’t want them to smoke or vape

 

If you don’t want your child to vape it is important to bring up the topic and discuss why with your child. Remember this needs to be more than you simply saying ‘don’t do that’. You need to explain to your child the why. This helps them understand there is a reason behind your rules. And when it is safety based, they can be more likely to accept your stance.

 

Talk about ways your child can say no to peer pressure

 

Let’s face it, even if you and your child do all the right things your child may still end up in a situation where they are offered vapes, cigarettes or marijuana. So although prevention is important, it is just as important to talk about what your teenager can do when faced with peer pressure.

 

Give your child an out

 

Agree on a single letter your child can text you when they are in a situation they do not want to be in. When you get a text with that letter the deal is you will give your child a call right away. Then they can use the call as an excuse to exit the situation they are in.

 

Teach your child what they can say

 

Your child or teenager may feel awkward about not knowing what they can say when a friend or peer invites them to smoke. So practice with them because then it becomes more familiar so that when they get into the situation, they know what to do. Here are some phrasing you can share with your child:

  • No, vaping is just as bad as cigarettes
  • I’m not into that
  • If I got busted, my parents would kill me.
  • If my coach found out, I’d get kicked off the team
  • I don’t want to get into trouble with police/school, etc.
  • I’m allergic – the great thing about this one is due to our current culture where we are all allergen aware, most kids will accept this blindly without questioning a child if it is true or not.

Humor can also be a good way to defuse an uncomfortable situation

 

If you have a kid that thinks their friends won’t stop with the above phrases, or if your child tends to like to use humor with others, here are other phrases you can teach them.

 

  • No thanks, I prefer to eat gummy bears instead of vaping them!
  • Nah, I don’t like how Altoids taste!

Making a joke can help take the focus off them and provide for a natural transition.

 

Final Thoughts on Vaping

It is important to not judge or punish your child for reaching out for help or informing you they are in a tough situation. Keep the trust and build a relationship where your child knows they can come to you when they are in trouble. Over time they will get better at not getting into those situations in the first place if they have your unconditional support.

If you are worried your child is vaping or has become addicted, check out the below resources on how to help your child quit.

 

Resources:

Smoke Free – build a quit plan, deal with triggers and troubleshoot withdrawal struggles

Truth Initiative – an anonymous text messaging program to support quitting

Tips for Parents – Simple tips for how parents can help support their teens in quitting

Authoritative Parenting: Discover What Makes it the Parenting Powerhouse

Authoritative Parenting: Discover What Makes it the Parenting Powerhouse

Authoritative Parenting:

Discover What Makes it a Parenting Powerhouse

 

Parent coaching helps teach authoritative parenting and positive parenting techniques

Wondering what parenting style is the best for you and your child? Experts¹ agree that authoritative parenting is the way to go.

What is authoritative parenting?

 

Authoritative parenting balances rules and structure with the needs of your child. Meaning you are going to consider your child’s wants, but balance it with firm and consistent limit setting.

As opposed to authoritarian parenting, where the parent provides strict rules with little explanation, or permissive parenting, which enforces few rules and lacks overall structure, authoritative parenting takes firm structure and blends it with supports that encourage learning, resilience and self-expression.

In short, authoritarian parenting allows a child to feel the safety and security of limits and structure, while still receiving loving and responsive emotional support.

So what does authoritative parenting look like in real life?

 

Authoritative parenting allows for you to have give and take with your child. This invites you to work together to create solutions and discipline that work for everyone. And while you remain the authority in your household, it allows your child a chance to express and advocate for themselves.

This supportive structure helps your child develop skills in communication, collaboration, problem solving, and empathy.

When you practice authoritative parenting, an interaction with your child or teenager may look like this:

‘I understand you really would like to go out with your friends, but I do not like you being out as late as they are going to be. You can go, but you must be back home by a certain time or you can choose to stay home and have your friends come over here.’

In this example, you are setting a firm limit, a reason why the limit exists and providing your child a limited choice within your firm structure that takes into account their wants or needs. This allows your child some agency in how limits are applied, but a clear boundary for expected behavior.

 

Why is authoritative parenting so effective?

 

Authoritative parenting is effective because being supportive and providing firm boundaries creates the two elements that kids need to thrive – love and consistency. And while that sounds good in theory, researchers have done various studies to prove it’s more than just theory. The impacts of authoritative parenting not only makes daily parenting easier, but it also has lasting effects into adulthood. See the science behind this parenting style here.

So what about positive parenting? And where does it fit in?

 

Like authoritative parenting, positive parenting is responsive to a child’s needs and puts in firm boundaries. In short, positive parenting is a way to practice authoritative parenting. Specifically, positive parenting focuses your parenting interactions on connection and providing positive reinforcements for the behaviors you want to occur. The idea is positive attention for positive behavior will bred positive results.

 

This shift in approach can help you yell and nag less, all while correcting unwanted behaviors. And this can result in overall better relationships as well as a host of positive long term effects.

 

If you want to learn more about how authoritative parenting and positive parenting can help you in your parenting goals, schedule a free 30 minute chat and I’ll walk you through how to make changes.

 

Want to see the science behind these two parenting styles?

The below links will take you to resources outside of Happy Parenting & Families website

 

  1. Effects of Authoritative Parental Control on Child Behavior
  2. The Relation of Parenting Style to Adolescent School Performance
  3. Patterns of Competence and Adjustment among Adolescents from Authoritative, Authoritarian, Indulgent, and Neglectful Families
  4. The Influence of Authoritative Parenting During Adolescence on Depressive Symptoms in Young Adulthood: Examining the Mediating Roles of Self-Development and Peer Support
  5. Amato, P. R., & Fowler, F. (2002). Parenting practices, child adjustment, and family diversity. Journal of Marriage and Family, 64(3), 703-716.
  6. Whittle, S., Simmons, J. G., Dennison, M., Vijayakumar, N., Schwartz, O., Yap, M. B. H., . . . Allen, N. B. (2014). Positive parenting predicts the development of adolescent brain structure: A longitudinal study. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 8, 7-17.
  7. Chen, Y., Kubzansky, L. D., & VanderWeele, T. J. (2019). Parental warmth and flourishing in mid-life. Social Science & Medicine, 220, 65-72.