Families can be stormy. Some are so full of conflict that children and adults face various levels of assault–verbal, emotional or physical–on a regular basis. Whether the nature of the conflicts are adult to adult, adult to child, or child to child, children caught in constant relationship storms are known to either hunker down–turning inward and potentially on a path toward depression–or absorb the negative energy and carry it with them–acting out in ways inappropriate to their environment and disproportionate to the environmental demands.
Some families are calm, but cloudy. Adults may be so focused on the responsibilities of work and parenting they live in an atmosphere of gray skies–not especially conflicted, but low on laughter and enjoyment. Children can add their own focus on clouds that constantly hover on the horizon–worrying about friendships, assignments, grades–losing the ability to find joyfulness in their childhood.
I do not want to negate the reality that there are serious issues in families, communities and work lives that require individual and collective action to be resolved. At the same time, it is important to see that the gray clouds of “what if…”, “yeah, but…”, “if you only knew…” and “if only he/she would…” are really just that: CLOUDS, a form of fog that obscures our vision and keeps us from seeing the small things we can do to allow more light and warmth into the climate we and our children experience.
As adults, we need to remember that our internal micro climate will impact the larger climate. As a wise person once told me, You can parent better than you feel–but not much.
So when all seems dire, you can:
- Focus on the mini-gifts throughout the day
- Get enough rest
- If biologically pre-disposed to anxiety or depression, talk to your doctor about potential treatment plans
You deserve to experience emotional warmth in the family you’ve created.
When we live in the gray overcast, it’s easy to believe that taking life seriously necessitates a climate of perpetual gray–that it is, in fact, the only logical response; everything else is naive.
But baring serious mental illness, most high-storm and gray climates can improve, and without the help of professional services. Sometimes improving climate can be as straight forward as practicing good manners. Think how often we say Thank You to an unknown person in uniform, yet take for granted the day-to-day participation of family members. Small acts of appreciation build a storehouse of warmth to help weather the more challenging parts of life.
When siblings are in high-conflict patterns, parents can insist on rules of engagement that echo those taught in classrooms–honor boundaries, take turns, keep each other safe. While the very youngest of toddlers cannot manage these tasks, those ages three and above are expected to be learning and practicing these skills. Just as the child benefits from the guidance of an adult, adults can use guidance too. It can come in many forms–books, on-line classes, life coaches, counselors or perhaps a trusted friend who, for instance, helps you through the challenge of developing a new habit of gratitude.
Sometimes it is simple awareness. Is there a storm brewing or not? If the storm is real, is it buffeting me about or can I take steps to avoid it or lessen the impact?
Warm family climates are not total happenstance. Nor are they the result of perfect people with no problems. Any small step, like those noted above, can have major impact because, unlike the weather outside, we have some power to maintain and change climate for ourselves and those around us.
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