There are some changes that we don’t make by choice; they are imposed on us and we have to make adjustments fast and from a sad place. What can make this even harder is the fact that we are responsible for our children who look to us for reassurance at a time when we have none to give. Platitudes come naturally as we seek to set their minds at rest about the changing situation but it can be hard to explain how things will be when maybe we don’t even know ourselves.
All these changes are very hard to take on board for children because the family is the centre of their world so any major change like this will be very unsettling. Unable to express how upset and often angry they are about it they can respond with non verbal behaviour such as bedwetting and eating problems, withdrawal and other manifestations of hurt and overwhelm. This makes a difficult situation for us, even worse as we have them to worry about as well.
Focus on a ‘desirable outcome’ by using a time line with them.
Imagine a line representing time laid out on the floor out in front of you. You are standing at a point representing today. Discuss how you feel and listen to how your child feels. If they are visual ask them what they see, auditory ask them what they hear and kinaesthetic how they feel and what they want to do.
Recognising how terrible you feel now and acknowledging that it does feel bad today rather than pretending all’s well is about living fully in the moment. There could be tears and anger and this is OK.
When you both feel ready, decide on a point on the imaginary line when you will feel better than you feel today. This may be a different point for each of you and that is fine. Each go and stand on the point when you think you will feel happier.
From that point (and notice how it is different for you and your child) talk about how you feel now, what has changed and what difference you are feeling in your emotions and experience. This may be a good opportunity for you both to share your thoughts about what needs to happen. Really associate into this moment in time and show your child how to anchor the moment so that at times when they feel bad they can use the anchor to remind them that things will get better for them.
Now take a step back towards today’s point, just as far as you feel comfortable, not necessarily all the way back. There may be a point along the way where you feel it marks a change. Talk about what that change could be and what you both want to happen.
Then go back to today’s point on the line and talk about what you can do today to start to make the change.
Hopefully you will have found it helpful to experience the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ and recognise that things will get better for you and have discussed how that could come about.
Some changes just are so terrible that it can be difficult to ever imagine that there will be some resolution or that you or they will be OK. You can use modelling to help here.
Is there someone you know who has been through something similar to what you’re experiencing now? Ask them about it and explore how they managed to support their family and heal themselves. Those who have been through painful times will understand how you are feeling and will remember the poignant first steps along the road to recovery. No-one else’s situation will be exactly the same as yours but by sharing the pain with others who know what you’re going through, some models of excellence may be picked up that you can apply to you and your family.
Here are several NLP tips that might also help;
- use ‘towards’ rather than ‘away from’ language with your children. Rather than talk about what you no longer have, focus instead on what you do have and joint goals you have discussed and agreed.
- Grief sometimes distorts images of the past and of the future. Notice when you use words like ‘never’ and ‘always’, ‘everyone’, ‘better’ and so on. These generalisations and distortions can be taken quite literally by children and aren’t usually a fair reflection of the situation.
- Use their preferred language, visual, auditory or kinaesthetic to discuss their feelings.
- Step into their shoes to understand their territory. How they see their new world will be quite different from how you see it.
- As they steadily make progress towards coping with the changes, use anchors with them to remind themselves at less good times, that there have been some improvements.
However bad things may seem now, if you have a desirable outcome that you agree with your children and tie it down to specifics you all have something to aim for. When you talk through with them what they think would be something to aim for, write down all suggestions and agree which ones will work. Then post it up somewhere so that everyone can see it and work towards it. Younger children may like to draw a picture of their desirable outcome so post that up as well.
We all want our children to have a happy childhood but that frequently is not possible through death, divorce, illness and separation. There are many books available on these themes and it helps for children to read them and know that they are not the only ones suffering. They also provide child models for them so they can learn from those who have been through a similar experience.
This is taken from ‘Be a happier parent with NLP’ published by Hodder Education and available to buy on Amazon or get your signed copy from my website.