How to Tame Triggers Around Your Kids

One parent I work with once asked me, “When will my child stop doing the things that make me lose him completely ? “I had no choice but to give her both the good and bad news: the good news is that they will probably eventually grow out of it. The bad news is that they will start doing something else that will press your buttons just as hard, and there is really no way to stop it. This is because the true source of our aroused feelings is not actually in our child’s behavior; it is within us.

If you’ve ever tried to change someone’s behavior – and it was a tough fight – you will know that this is great news indeed. We need to identify the reasons why behavior affects us so strongly and take steps to turn our explosive reactions into deliberate reactions.

Here’s how to do it in three steps.

Recognize the sources of your agitated feelings

This can be tricky because the often triggered feelings have little to do with what’s going on in your life right now . Instead, they tend to be rooted in what happened to you as a child, or even to your parents when they were children. Martina, a parent I work with as a parenting mentor, can trace the trauma down to five generations of her family, from immigrants who experienced discrimination after arriving to stop a mine strike to parents who were alcoholics, emotional abusers and neglected them. their children.

Martina’s own mother, Lucia, was dismissive and overly controlling in response to the neglect she received from Martina’s grandmother. Martina recalls that emotional expressions were simply unacceptable (or safe) in the presence of her mother. Martina developed anxiety disorder, low self-esteem, and a deep distrust of her instincts.

Martina then saw the legacy of family trauma manifest in her own upbringing as she obsessively sought expert advice to reinforce what she considered lacking knowledge. She couldn’t define her own needs, so she couldn’t set boundaries when she needed them – and she also felt like she didn’t have to set boundaries because she wanted to show her son love that she didn’t get from her own. Mother. The lack of consistency and boundaries was already taking its toll on her brand new verbal baby, who told her they should have another baby, implying that he wasn’t good enough.

Even if the trauma in your own family is not as severe as in Martina’s case, it is likely that many of your childhood needs were not met, either because your parents were unable to satisfy them or because they chose not to satisfy them. or they tried to turn you into the child they would like to have. And all of this, in turn, makes you feel overwhelming when your child does things that annoy you.

Start to heal the sources of your agitated feelings.

Sometimes discernment alone is enough to make progress here. You can hear how I discovered — during an interview with an intergenerational trauma expert — how my father’s near-nightly lectures as a teenager caused me to feel intense anger whenever my husband interrupted me. Since I learned about this connection, I was able to get a much more balanced response to my husband, who made it clear that I do not like being interrupted, without a disproportionate response.

We can do writing exercises to help us better understand the trauma we have experienced, which helps us to clarify our memories and integrate them – just as retelling the story of our own explosive episodes with our children helps them process these events and get past them. …

Another powerful tool we can use is to realize that while our memories seem very real to us, they are actually stories that our left hemisphere comes up with to understand our experiences, and they may have very little real. grounds. When we are aware of this, we can distance ourselves from our trauma and view it as something we can choose to pay attention to or not.

Understand your feelings and needs

Understanding your feelings and needs seems incredibly easy – until we understand that our culture often allows only limited expression of feelings (men should not feel anything but anger, and women may have a wider range, but should not feel anger or anything- that’s still “awkward”). And if our needs were usually ignored in childhood, we often have problems even defining them, let alone trying to satisfy them.

I realized this a few years ago when my husband and I booked flights to go on vacation for a vacation that I didn’t want at all. I agreed to do this, and it was only a few months later that we spoke to the therapist when he said, “How do I know you don’t want to go? I asked you three times and you said yes! “The therapist said,” Did you ask her three times? Why did you do that? “I needed to be a little quiet alone during the holidays, which I could not fully understand or express. My husband heard a hesitant expression of my need, but ignored his intuition because I said I was ready to journey.

I now know that I need to pay attention to the physical manifestations of my needs, which can manifest as feelings such as nausea, chest tightness, and tightness in the throat or shoulders. And he knows he needs to pay attention to my non-verbal communication. Together, we are working to break the cycle of trauma I went through so that we can raise our daughter so that she can live her life without being limited by our experiences.

None of this is quick or easy. This implies that we show ourselves and our families in a way that we may not have done before. But the results can be significant. Martina always knew that her relationship with her mother was difficult, but did not understand how it affected her daily or even hourly communication with her son. She says that the changes she was able to make were “the most important and significant achievement in my personal life … maybe ever.”

Jen Lumanlan hosts the podcast Your Parenting Mojo , which turns parenting and development science into tools that parents can use to make parenting decisions. She also runs the Taming Triggers workshop , which helps parents understand the sources of their feelings, begin to heal from the trauma they have experienced, and find new and effective ways to respond – rather than respond to – their child’s complex behaviors. …

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