Communication style makes, strains and breaks family relationships.
Life is finite and so much time is lost in the expenditure of wasted and misdirected emotional energy. Nowhere is this is so prevalent as in a student's last year of high school.
Grades, SAT's, college applications with the infamous essay, financial aid concerns, multiple deadlines, life transition for all... the list is endless and the stress almost palpable.
Let's change this before the nest is empty. Our kids grow up so quickly!
Here's a quick two part Mind Acrobatics exercise designed to create awareness, lead to a less stressful senior year and help build a new family dynamic full of memorable moments.
Please read the exercise first and then carry it out at a time that works best for you.
"A RELAXED SENIOR YEAR... I'LL MAKE IT HAPPEN!"
- Your beverage or snack of choice
- Paper or journal and pen
- Soothing music
- A comfortable chair in which you can write
Exercise Part 1
- Sit in a relaxed position.
- Breathe in and out slowly 10 times.
- Close your eyes.
- Focus on fond memories of your 12th grader as an infant.
- Now as a toddler.
- The first day of Kindergarten.
- About 9-years-old, then 12 and finally 15.
- After a few minutes of pleasurable reminiscing pause.
- Write down a few of your most joyous recollections.
- Stop after 5 minutes or so and relax a few minutes before continuing.
As you prepare for the second portion of this exercise keep in mind the next 10 months or so may be the last time your senior lives at home full time!
Exercise Part 2
- Take 5 slow and relaxed breaths.
- Close your eyes.
- Create a mental image of the coming months.
- Visualize relaxed and enjoyable family activities.
- After you've pictured them open your eyes.
- Spend 10 minutes or so and create a list of opportunities.
- These are positive moments you may share with your child.
- Stop writing when you feel like it.
Congratulations, you've just completed a visualization that's geared to help you become more mindful of the nature of your relationship so that you may create quality time with your 12th grader before they fly the coop. This exercise is not simply an excursion into memory, fantasy or wish fulfillment.
Think about the year gone by. How much stress free time did you spend with your child? What amount of energy was expended in nagging about homework and studying, and the variety of endless adolescent issues? Did it help?
Which do you remember more, stress and arguing or positive joyful interactions?
As parents we have to craft the opportunities and relationship we will enjoy in this hectic last year before college. It's a challenge!
The key is being mindful of all your interactions. Be aware of your responses and when you can let something go? How would it feel if most everything didn't seem to be an issue? How might you change this?
Observe your tone of voice and facial expressions in the communications that transpire. Try smiling more even when feeling stressed.
Most of us tend to run on auto-pilot. With our children we often have knee jerk reactions to particular behaviors. Now's the time to evaluate and determine what you must insist upon and that which will make no difference in your child's life three years from now.
All of the above is important and will help create a calmer and happier atmosphere.
Senior year the pressure will be on... it's a fact of life. There are many ways to deal with this. One is keeping informed of all school deadlines.
However, there's something else equally important, perhaps a bit tougher but worth the effort... planning.
Sit down with your child and begin to create a new model of communication. Let them know that you are aware of how stretched and stressed they will feel this final year.
Explain that you are available to lend all the support they need, but don't want to be intrusive. At the same time let them know you'd really like to find a way to spend some quality time together. Ask for suggestions. They may draw a blank. "I don't know" is a typical response.
If they have no suggestions your list from part two of the Mind Acrobatics exercise becomes a springboard of possibilities.
Your ideas for fun may seem great to you but remember how a teenager thinks, feels and responds. Your approach is critical.
Attempt suggestions in a way that empower your child. Rather than say "why don't we plan this" try "I've got a thought, how would it work for you if we...?" Allow them to be the decider.
Phrase your ideas so that they can't be answered with a yes or no. Keep them open ended ensuring your child doesn't feel cornered.
You might ask, "If you only have time for one activity together as a family what would you like it to be?" Or, "what one special event can we set up in celebration of you becoming a senior?"
The teen years are filled with stress, emotion and anxiety for everyone. As "the adults" it's up to us to get in touch and evaluate all that is truly important and necessary.
This doesn't mean abdicating our responsibility. However it requires that we become cognizant of our interactions and do the best we can to create a supportive and low stress environment.
Our fears and concerns for our children's future pale in comparison to what they experience and rarely communicate to any great degree.
Awareness is the first step in creating and sustaining a life-long interaction style that empowers both parents and children.
Are you ready to take up the challenge? The reward will be well worth the effort.
If you've developed a great communication technique please share it. We all benefit. I respond to all comments. Thanks for reading this article.
Follow Dave Kanegis on Twitter: www.twitter/mindacrobatics