How many times have you heard the parent of a teenager say to the parent of a toddler: “enjoy it as much as you can now! if you think this is challenging, wait until your child becomes a teenager!”
Parents of teens often talk about the new challenges they face as their teen starts to develop their own social networks, belief systems and values, and start to push for more independence.
Parents may feel a sense of loss, feeling like they have no control anymore. Their instinct is to keep on protecting their child and shelter them from the external world while their teen’s instinct is to spread their wings and go off exploring the world. This can create conflicts as parents and teens struggle with the dance of dependence and independence, hanging on and letting go.
Below are some suggestions to help smooth out the transition:
Involve your teen in figuring out a solution
It can be very empowering for your teen to know that they can be a part of the solution to a problem. When you are both calm and free, approach your teen and tell them that you would like to discuss with them a challenge that you are both facing. Discuss the challenge and ask for their feedback and opinion then ask them to brainstorm with you a list of possible solutions. An example of a challenge you both face could be related to homework, you feeling like you are constantly nagging at them and your teen feeling smothered. As you go over the possible solutions suggested by both of you, agree on one that you both feel comfortable with. For example, you can agree with your teen that you will no longer constantly remind them about their homework as soon as they arrive home but instead give them time to relax, eat, and chill first. Once they are recharged, your teen will be starting their homework by themselves around 1.5 hours after they have first arrived home from school. Then agree with your teen about possible consequences should they fail to observe your agreement. For example, if they fail to finish their work before dinner time, then your teen might decide with you that a possible consequence could be cancelling any plans they have the next day, or waking up extra early the next day to finish up their work.
Once you both reach an agreement, Be consistent
In line with the above suggestion, it is important for both you and your teen to remain consistent to the terms of your agreement. This will help your teen feel that the world is predictable which will help them feel safe and secure. For example, if you agreed that the consequence for your teen coming back home later than the set curfew would be no outing the next week, stick to your decision. The same goes with the above consequences related to homework. This consistency will help your teen develop into a mature adult who assumes the consequences of their actions.
Give your teen more responsibility
Children are often ready to push their boundaries and take on more responsibility long before parents are ready to give them more, and that also includes teens. Giving your teen more responsibility is an important part of their growth and development and will help them develop vital decision making skills for the future. You can discuss with your teen some areas where you are willing to give them more freedom and discuss the associated expectations. For example, if your teen is asking for a phone, you can encourage them to assume more responsibility by asking them to contribute towards the cost of the phone. They could earn extra money by carrying out extra chores around the house for example, cutting down on their expenditure, or getting a summer job in a trusted place (if you have a friend or a colleague who is willing to hire them for the summer). Once they earn their phone, you can also agree with your teen on the rules of usage. For example, when they are out with their friends, they are expected to give you a call and update you on their whereabouts and the time when they will get home.
Finally, and most importantly, maintain an open line of communication with your teen. This will help them feel safe and secure knowing that they can come to you with their questions, concerns, and problems. This in turn will reinforce their sense of responsibility as they learn appropriate ways of seeking help by turning to an adult and having an open discussion about their issues, rather than engaging in maladaptive coping strategies.
Mona Merhej Moussa
You can read more about involving your teen in the decision making process and generating a solution in “Positive Discipline for Teenagers, Empowering Your Teens and Yourself Through Kind and Firm Parenting” by Jane Nelson and Lynn Lott (2012)
If you were to ask any caregiver, teacher, parent, or family member about the “Terrible Two’s”, they are likely to shudder in fear, visualizing a supermarket scenario where a two year old is in full tantrum mode, lying on the floor screaming and kicking, or a toy store scenario where a disheveled parent is hopelessly trying to whisk their child away from the myriad of toys they are trying to grab on, and shushing their child who is screaming at the top of their lungs.
The Terrible Twos is defined as “a period in a child's social development (typically around the age of two years) which is associated with very defiant or unruly behaviour” according to the Oxford Dictionary.
But it need NOT be the case. It’s just a question of changing your perception and equipping yourself with a few tricks.
Ask yourself: what’s behind the anger?
When a child gets angry, their anger is likely to push your buttons too causing you to react immediately. One trick to avoid getting your anger button triggered is to ask yourself, what’s behind the anger? It could be hunger, sleepiness, tiredness, shame, embarrassment, jealousy, worry, or fear. The trick is to look beyond the anger and address the underlying feeling.
Get down to the child’s level
Another trick is to get down to the child’s level, look them in the eye, and remain calm while talking slowly to them. You can help yourself remain calm by focusing on your breathing for a few seconds beforehand. As soon as you start to talk slowly and in a calm manner, this is likely to evoke a surprise effect in the child who will try to stop shouting and screaming in order to hear what you are saying. Getting down to their level and establishing eye contact can also make the child feel more connected with you and understood.
Give the child a hug
A final trick is to give them a hug and tell them “ I love you” instead of telling them to stop shouting. When a two-year old feels angry, they might also feel scared by the overwhelming emotion taking ahold of them. With the feeling of anger growing inside of them, the increased heart rate, and the heat generated by the emotion, a two-year is likely to feel frightened by the anger taking control of them. When an adult shouts at them, they are likely to feel worse, shouting and crying even more. When you give them a hug instead, you give them the message that you are here for them, and that they can count on you no matter what. This can be very comforting and soothing for a two-year old who is only just learning the ropes of appropriate social behavior.
Your efforts and patience in this developmental stage will pave the way in turn for the child to learn to regulate their emotions and behaviors and assume responsibility for their actions as they grow older.
Mona Merhej Moussa
Artwork Fadwa Al Qasem
There is a time when everything stops, the world comes to a halt, the hassles of the day dissipate, and the child snuggles up into the warmth of their parent, for the most precious and eagerly awaited time of the day: story time. These tend to be one the most cherished moments of the day for children, because they get their parents’ undivided attention, bask in the warmth of their lap, and travel on a new journey offered by the story. Laughter and smiles co-occur, eyes twinkle, and a quiet, deep seated happiness fills the heart.
Story time with your child can offer all this because it forces, YOU, the adult, to focus on the present moment, to let go of the regrets of the past, the worry of the futures, and the current hassles of the day, even if just for a few minutes. When you are able to let go, and just be, your child will feel it, and a deep connection will take place. It will be just you, your child, and the book while nothing else will matter for those few precious minutes.
Next time, you come back home to your child stressed out from a long, hard day, take a deep breath, choose a gorgeous book, snuggle up with your child, and enjoy those few minutes of undivided attention. You will feel recharged, and your child will be grateful for those moments of pure bliss.
Mona Merhej Moussa
“Writer’s block”…. The mere mention of it sends shivers down the most experienced of writers. According to the dictionary, writer’s block is “the condition of being unable to think of what to write or how to proceed with writing.”
While it is easily defined, writer’s block is a multi-layered concept that can be tackled from different angles.
The blank page block
This tends to happen when you find yourself staring at a white page and are not able to write anything at all. In that instance, it is recommended to just write about anything and everything without any aim or goal, without following through any plot or plan. Just get started and the rest will flow.
The muddy swamp
This happens when you feel like you have no idea how to go forward anymore. While a few days ago you were writing like there was no tomorrow, today you find yourself stuck, not knowing how to move forward. In a case like this, you could stop for some time and take a few days away from it all to recharge, and gain a fresh perspective.
The paralyzing fear
You feel like you are paralyzed in fear, in anticipation of imagined criticism by others. You are so afraid of how others might see your work that you just won’t write a thing. In situations like these, you will need to remember that these fears have no objective base and are simply a part of your own projections of how the future will be. In reality you can not anticipate the future or others’ reactions but the best that you can do is just start writing and keep up your critical eye for the revision time.
The paralyzed characters
You might feel like sometimes that the characters that you created have lost their sparkle. While they initially appeared to be energetic and vibrant characters, they now seem to be stuck in inactivity a dozen pages later. In this case, you can try to spend more time working on the depthness of your characters, their sense of purpose, their needs and desires, as well as their inner conflicts and fears.
The paralyzed verb
Sometimes you might get stuck on a verb. While you know exactly how your story is moving along, you feel like you can not move forward until you find that exact verb in this specific sentence. You might spend a whole day staring at the screen just trying to pinpoint this verb to no avail. Sometimes, spending this time might be worth it because identifying this right verb may be just what you need to bring together the pieces of your story’s puzzle. However, if this seems to be taking longer that you think it should, then it might easier to just pick any verb to get going and edit it later once you figure it out.
The vanishing story
You might have had an amazing story formulated in your head but as soon as you executed it and started writing it, the whole glitter just withered away and you were left with a shriveled story.
In such a situation, try to see past your worries and fears of criticism to figure out whether you are just too worried about what others might think of your story. If you still feel that your story might not be up to your standard, then you could try writing parts of your story from a another’s character’s point of view and see how it goes. Or you could try to take a step back and write up a synopsis of your story in order to be able to evaluate it objectively and whether you need to work on some loose ends. If all else fails, it might also be wise to start afresh, and who knows your story may end up being a stepping stone for your next success.
Regardless of whether you are blocked because of your fears, your characters, your words, or your story. One thing is true and can always be helpful. As Pychyl (2013) suggests: “Just get started!”, and the rest will flow.
Mona Merhej Moussa, PhD
Children’s Books Author
based on http://io9.com/5844988/the-10-types-of-writers-block-and-how-to-overcome-them
Pychyl, T.A. (2013) Solving the Procrastination Puzzle, Penguin Group, New York
Hunna Blog, a peek into the pages of our notebooks and our minds. Not a literacy area rather a jungle of thoughts.