I hope your Tuesday is off to a good start. We are all currently dealing with so many limits in life related to where we can go and who we can see. This can cause us to feel frustrated, irritated, anxious, fearful…the list could go on and on. This leads right into today’s focus skill of coping with limits by saying “okay”. Throughout this time of being physically limited from many places, our children are also dealing with additional limits at home. On a daily basis, kids are told "no" for a variety of reasons, and especially after being cooped up at home for weeks, they may be pushing these limits. Part of this may be a result of trying to gain some control since so much has been taken away. When responding to limits, it’s okay to feel mad, angry, or any feeling, however the skill today is to cope with the situation, the difficult feelings, and respond in a respectful manner. All of the previous calming strategies can be used when responding to limits or being told "no", so this is a good day to review, practice, and apply those skills as needed.
There are 3 steps to respond to limits/being told no:
Get calm (previous strategies: breathe, count, positive or relaxing thought, breaks, etc.)
Look at the person talking (to acknowledge the person/show that they were heard)
Respond (verbally or nonverbally)
Since we know that limits can cause an increase in difficult feelings, it is okay for our children to respond verbally or nonverbally. When at a stressed state, it may be difficult to use respectful language or a calm tone of voice. Coping and accepting the limit is more important than using eye contact and having a verbal response. If we require a verbal response from a child when they are upset, we may not be getting the response we want. A nonverbal response can be used by just following the direction.
Responses may include:
Following the direction
Suggestions for using this skill:
● Reinforce with your child that saying OK doesn’t mean that they like the limit and it doesn’t mean that they agree. It just means that they are being brave and courageous in how they are handling the limit.
● When appropriate, provide a reason for rules or for limits. For example, If you eat a snack now, you won’t be hungry for dinner and I want you to have a healthy dinner to make your body and mind strong.
● When giving a limit or rule, it’s OK to let the child know you need to think about an answer before saying yes or no.
● Provide reminders of positive outcomes for saying OK or coping with being told no.
● When faced with limits, children may experience a lack of control, which can create an overreaction. Validate feelings, provide reassurance, and encourage appropriate choices when responding (what to say and do).
● Provide a perception of choice when possible to allow your child to have some control. Reading needs to get done today. Would you like to do it before or after lunch? Would you like to read by yourself or with me? Would you like to read on your bed or on the couch? These options provide a sense of control, choice, and independence.
● Practice these 3 steps. Share with you child that this is difficult for everyone. Play a game in which the child is the adult telling you “no” and you follow the 3 steps.
● Identify other phrases that than be used to respond to limits – have fun with it!
As a nation, community, and household, we are all dealing with limits. We are in this together and we can become stronger and more resilient because of it. Try to focus on what we do have control over and what we can do during this time period. We are all getting some extra practice, and hopefully getting better at using coping skills and handling difficult feelings. These are skills our children will have for the rest of their lives.
Please reach out if you need support during this time, whether it is for your child, or as a parent. We have immediate openings for teletherapy with several of our therapists. We hope you all have a wonderful day.
-Marissa Lloyd, LPCMH