Recently I was triggered and totally reacted to my son in a way I wished I had not. In the midst of my temper tantrum, I noticed his expression and could see that he was really impacted, I could see the sadness in his eyes and the discomfort in his body language.
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I shifted – I took a breath and focused on a calming elongated out breath and made the split second decision to share how I was feeling (rather than what I was thinking).
I began to speak from my heart. I shed a few tears and told him that what this is really about is that as he grows older and is seeking more independence, I miss him and I miss our connection. I told him how his behavior impacts me but also told him that these are my feelings and I’m not not trying to make him feel guilty, rather to express how I’m feeling.
Anger is Sad’s BodyguardI told him that I was grateful to have found the sadness behind my anger. I apologized for my strong reaction.
I ruptured our trust for a moment, but the minute I spoke from my heart, we found our way back to connection and we began to repair trust. Relationships are resilient but we need to do the work to repair trust once it’s been broken. And that requires more than just an apology.
Even you’re committed to responding instead of reacting and not yelling, there will be times when you yell, roll your eyes, have tone, be critical, or act in some way that you aren’t so proud of.
So, how DO we repair trust?
Self-Compassion and Forgiveness
First, you practice a TON of self-compassion. What needs weren’t being met? What were you feeling? What is behind the anger? Start with empathy towards yourself and forgive yourself. The shame cycle is the primary reason we don’t do the real work in repairing trust. Face your shame and forgive yourself. You’re human, so you will screw up.
“To err is human, to forgive divine.” ~Alexander Pope
Repair Trust and Restore Connection
The beautiful thing is that there is a ton of connection that happens in the repair and re-connection. A TON!
Some steps towards repairing trust and restoring connection:
- Take time to reflect on your experience as well as your child’s. Really see the interaction from your child’s point of view. Think about what issues were triggered and why those issues got activated.
- Make sure you’re centered and calm before you talk to your child. There’s no rush.
- In an age-appropriate way, go to your child and state your intention to reconnect.
- If you have a teenager, you may want to ask them if now is a good time. If they aren’t ready to talk, honor that and try again later.
- Acknowledge the interaction while trying to be as neutral as possible (“This has been hard for both of us. Can we talk about it?”)
- Do your best to guess how they must have been feeling and say it out loud to them – “I was imagining that you might have been feeling attacked by me, and I feel sad that I wasn’t listening to your point of view.”
- Compassionately listen to your child’s thoughts and feelings (without defending yourself). Allow them the space to say whatever they are feeling in a space of non-judgment and curiosity.
- Remind your child that sometimes people, including parents, flip their lids and act irrationally.
- Apologize if that feels appropriate. Try not to say “I’m sorry, but you __” Owning your part is far more important than the words “I’m sorry.”
- Find a way to reconnect with a hug, a high five, a walk, a shared snack or some other way that feels good.
- Remember, we all screw up! The good news is that struggle builds resilience. So let go of some of the guilt and focus on repairing trust and reconnecting!
Please share below about your experience with repairing trust…do you have any other ways you repair trust with your kids?