Keep calm, make time

Is the house a zoo in the morning with everyone rushing around and the children getting little more than barked at?

And the end of the day?

This week three more pointers from the research of Earl Grollman and Gerri Sweder into how children felt about parents and work.

''My parents are always screaming that they're going to be late.''

This is how most children describe the pre-school hour and, let's face it, many of us aren't at our best first thing.

Unfortunately, a throwaway bark can make a youngster miserable all day, while teenagers are likely to stew on it and turn it into something bigger.

The first suggestion is to try to create a calm start by getting up 15 minutes earlier and slowing down the pace.

Breakfast together is important but not always possible.

Can lunches be made the night before?Don't forget the hug, kiss, word of encouragement and the goodbye wave, even if it's you leaving first.

These small things can make an important difference to a child's day, and yours.

The end of the day can be equally problematic.

Children often have lots to tell.

Adults do, too, but their unloading is often more negative than positive.

The suggestion here is to make time to listen.

''How can I talk to my parents if they are always watching TV?''

Can you read your email and really hear what is being said?

The children interviewed knew what they wanted to talk about, usually feelings, especially when they felt afraid.

But at the end of the day it can take real effort for parents and these subjects are often brushed aside with a ''Don't be silly'' or ''It'll be all right''.

The second tip is to avoid criticising unfairly, so easy to do when you're tired and stressed.

It's interesting isn't it that we often don't have time to listen, but we certainly have time to criticise.

Children can struggle with how to respond to the quick, thoughtless unfair criticism of the ''never'' and ''always'' kind.

''You never do what you are told'' or ''You always forget to ...''

When youngsters bear the brunt of frustration generated at work, it not only seems unfair, it is unfair.

Ian Munro


Are you listening?

Grollman and Sweder suggest this technique for letting a child know you're really listening:

• Set time aside for each child sometime during the evening, perhaps as part of storytime in bed

• Sit close

• Pay attention to voice and body language, which often tell you more than the words

• Let them choose the topic

• Express understanding and try not to come in with a quick judgement 


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