We are all going through what may be the most nerve wracking challenging experience of our lifetime. For those of us who have children in crisis (commonly referred to as KIPs, Kids In Pain), we have some unique struggles that need a unique perspective. Below I offer some guidance in the hope that it may make things easier for us all as we await with confidence the Yeshuas Hashem..
Rabbi Shimon Russell
1) Your KIP is not crazy. They just hate feeling/being controlled by you (or anyone else for that
matter !) Consequently at a time like this when external controls are being placed on all of us
including them, they should NOT BE EXPECTED to take this situation as maturely & as
seriously as us & as society in general require.
2) Nevertheless some, perhaps many of them, will respond maturely to this present crisis & it's
restrictions. Some clients have questioned, “how is it that our KIP is responding maturely to THIS CRISIS while previously s/he seemed unable to respond maturely to other requests of ours that also made them feel controlled ? Doesn't that mean that our KIP always possessed the ability to control themselves & comply with our requests”.
The answer is, no. It simply means that even for them, their instincts for survival at this time of crisis surpasses all their other PTSD responses & therefore they are able to comply more easily without being triggered.
3) For others, they will respond as KIPs do in general. I.e they feel threatened easily. As trauma victims (see any of my on-line videos that explain this) they will react in a way that seems to others to be self-centered. In reality when they are triggered they will go into the
flight/fight/freeze mode to self preserve or self-soothe. Being told that they are NOT ALLOWED TO go out, NOT ALLOWED TO have a friend over, NOT ALLOWED TO
socialize, NEED TO respect curfew, NEED TO social distance, NEED TO observe a higher
level hygiene etc, may trigger them into a full blown PTSD reaction.
4) Therefore expect them to ridicule, laugh at, make fun of the external controls government &
society is placing on us all. It is to be expected.
5) Nevertheless, we must as responsible citizens do what we can to encourage them to comply
with these external controls. The fact therefore is that at this time of crisis we as parents must
work double hard to try NOT TO TRIGGER them.
6) How do we do it ? We must remind ourselves that it is not what you say but how you say it! What you say will be including statements that they will experience as “External control”.
This is because it is external control & due to the crisis we have no choice but to say it.
7) So now more than ever we need to MODIFY the “External Control Statement” in order to
minimize the potential of them reacting negatively to being controlled.
8) This is achieved in a number of ways.
a) Let them know that this is not personal. What you are telling them is from the Government. Be careful. DO NOT require of them more restrictions than have been put in place by your local government. DO NOT allow your own anxiety to pressure them to any restrictions beyond those required by government.
b) Tune into & VALIDATE to them how difficult this must be for them. Understand their need to “get out” to “see friends” etc. State it warmly with understanding & compassion.
c) Be attuned to your “Meta-communication” that is your facial expression, body language & tone of voice. It is through these three mediums that you have the ability to modify a cold “External Control Message” into a simple “communication of information” for their & your well-being.
d) Remove all panic, anxiety, fear, frustration etc from your Meta-communication. If necessary practice with your spouse or a close friend prior to speaking to your children. It is crucial that what you communicate comes across as “information only”. i.e. you strip it of all the facial expressions, body language & tone of voice normally used to elevate the urgency & importance of i) what you are saying and ii) of the need for their unconditional compliance to it.
e) Offer them help. Ask them what can you do to help make this easier for them. If they don't already have it, make sure that they have the ability to be in touch with their friends through some form of video chat.
9) After doing all the above, let them be. Do not fight them into compliance. Most kids will cooperate if you follow the above guidelines. If they don't, let it be ! For them at least, it is
reasonable to believe that their negative relationship with you, is for them a greater level of
danger than the Virus!
10) If your KIP goes in & out of your house despite being asked (& instructed by the Government) not to, leave them alone. Fighting them will only make matters worse.
11) What do you do, if you have a high risk person in your home and all the above advise has not helped. Try saying something like this: “Under normal circumstances I truly feel that your journey is your journey. I hope that you feel that I am there for you but not in your way. I really try never to control you or your behavior. At this time I'm going to be a little more upfront with you in a way that you might feel is controlling. That is truly not my intention at all.
As you know we have living together with us..... (describe any high risk situation that you might have in your home) in our home. My deep concern is that their life might be put into jeopardy by being exposed to the virus. Unfortunately no-one really knows for sure how it is being transmitted, and that's why all these restrictions are being recommended & required. What we do know is that it is highly contagious & people are dying of it all over the world. The recommendations being provided by the government officials seem to be helping & slowing the spreading of the virus. This is saving lives. We understand that Hashem & Hashem alone decides when it is someones time to go. Nevertheless we want to do our utmost to protect our most vulnerable, even though this makes all of our lives so difficult & challenging. G-d willing this will all pass soon.”
12)After doing all the above, in the very unlikely event that they still do not co-operate, focus your efforts on protecting those who are vulnerable in your home, by isolating them & leave your KIP alone.
With Hashem's help this will all pass. What is so crucial for us is to not lose focus on what we have been working so hard on, to regain the trust & relationship with our child. Now is the time to dig deep, dig very deep & find levels of compassion we may never have discovered before. We are all going to have to do some external control of our KIPs. Even if only by verbal suggestion. Control it still is. Let's do it with kindness, gentleness. Caring & compassion. Let's offer it as “information only”. Let us now, if we haven't yet, let go & let G-d.