When our children are young, communication can be incredibly frustrating.
Usually it involves crying and acting out and other fun-filled behaviors that push our buttons.
It can feel like panic and exhaustion and anger all bubble up together as you race through possible scenarios about why your child is crying this time, and what exactly to do about it.
But let’s not stop there, because a part of the equation is also the adult in the relationship, *gulp*. Us.
How are we showing up to our babies? Are we having our own versions of acting out? What’s a worn out parent to do?
Well, I have a shortcut that might help. This is borrowed from Alcoholics Anonymous, actually, and adapted, because I think it’s just handy for anyone to consider.
When your day is feeling bumpy, or your kid is pushing your buttons, it’s time to HALTS. (Ok I know that doesn’t really work structurally and grammatically, but stay with me.)
Remember this acronym and do a quick check. “Am I feeling, or is my child feeling…”
These issues affect our abilities to be our best selves.
Any one of these, or worse, a combination, depletes our energy required for empathy, patience, kindness, learning…you name it.
And in fact, it activates the parts of our brain that are our most selfish, combative and uncooperative (through our fight/flight networks).
No one can be their best when experiencing HALTS, especially children, whose emotion regulation and behavior regulation skills are still under construction anyway.
So, when the going gets tough, pause and check your HALTS – address those real, valid needs (whether in yourself or someone else) first before reacting, disciplining, or saying something you might regret.
Grab a snack, then talk.
Tell someone, take a walk, take some deep breaths – or help your kiddo do the same. (For anger in particular, it can be helpful to do something to discharge the body energy first, like doing push ups/squats/walk/run/push or pull something heavy…then talk it out).
Connect with someone, give a hug, get a hug, text a friend for support.
Find some short moments to practice a little mindfulness for a temporary boost, then consider some real changes to your sleep hygiene, and ask for help so you can nap or go to bed earlier.
Talk it out, get support, give support. More hugs.
Our kids HALTS are just as valid as ours, and vice versa.
Our culture doesn’t do a great job with validating real needs, whether physical or emotional…but it makes our relationships so much harder when we ignore them.
Set yourself up for a smoother day at work, at home, and with your family – check your HALTS.