|Jumping down a giant sand dune. A good kind of adrenaline rush.|
I went to a great lecture last weekend by psychologist, Jeffrey Ford. The lecture, “How to Create a Safe Place to Talk about Dangerous Things,” focused on how to create a home and build relationships in which kids feel safe telling their parents about their problems, even the most difficult kinds. Ford talked a lot about addiction problems, including alcohol, drugs, pornography, and even gaming. Unbelievable statistics about some of those things, but I'm not going to get into that now. Since kids with ADHD tend to be more prone to addictions and risky behavior, I was very interested in what he had to say. He talked about the 5 Cs: compliment, commit, calm, composed, and connection.
Compliment: When your child has the courage to share his problems with you, start by complimenting him. Tell him you know how difficult it must be to admit the problem and talk about it. Tell him he showed great courage in bringing it up. Tell him you love him no matter what. If you react this way to smaller problems, your child will trust you with bigger issues.
Commit: Tell your child that you are committed to helping her. Tell her that she has probably tried to stop the behavior on her own, but now you are there to be a help and support. Tell your child that you will regularly ask her about the problem. You can even set up a weekly meeting.
Calm: When your child admits to a problem, it is not the time to show anger or overreact. Your expression is especially important because it shows how you feel within a split second. Practice remaining calm in all situations with your child. Remind yourself that you will love your child no matter what problems he has. Ask yourself, Would I like to communicate with someone who would likely react in anger?
Composed: This is also not a time to cry or act as though the child’s problem is going to send you over the edge. You are the adult, your child needs to be able to depend on you, trust you, and lean on you. Do not keep the problem from one or the other parent. That sends the message that the parent will not be able to cope and will not be able to love the child who has made mistakes. For instance, if you say to your child, “I’m not going to tell Dad about this,” the child may feel that her behavior is so disgusting that her father will not want to know about it. If you catch your child in the act, tell her that you will talk to her in 15 or 20 minutes when you’ve both had time to think and calm down.
Connection: Many addictive and risky behaviors create false emotions. Kids who have real connections with real people are less likely to turn to dangerous behaviors. Kids who are afraid to fail, who feel that they will be criticized or lectured for problems, or who feel that mistakes are disastrous are more vulnerable to seeking false support. The most important factor in helping a child to avoid dangerous behaviors is the child’s own positive self-concept. A healthy relationship between parent and child is key to the child’s self-concept and internal strength.
A little maxim: “Secrets surface in safety.”
This is a lot to think about, but for me, it was a good reminder that my relationships with my kids are critical to their well-being. Solving little problems and building trust now will be a great help when the bigger problems come along. No matter how crazy things get, they need to know I love them. Don’t like the behavior; love them. We had a little chat about drugs and alcohol over dinner and it went great. We did some role plays, and they really enjoyed it.