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Parenting Advice Article

3 Ways to Keep it Together When Your Child Seems to Be Falling Apart
By Amy Phillips-Gary

My 11 year old son has had an intense aversion to fruit since he was very young. It is even recorded in his baby book that he would not eat fruit.

This not only manifests in him refusing to eat fruit or things have fruit in them, he cannot stand to be around fruit.

Needless to say, this can make eating out a bit challenging.

My son doesn't scream or yell when someone eats fruit around him at a restaurant, but it is very clear that he is uncomfortable. If he can, he'll move far away from the "offending" food or visibly hold his nose.

I tend to get triggered when I see him reacting to fruit in this way. I often feel a mixture of impatience, concern, embarrassment and a desire to fix the problem.

When he seems to be falling apart, I have a really tough time
staying calm and holding my own center.

Consequently, my reactions tend to fuel his already off-kilter state and I am pretty much useless as a source of support for him during a difficult time.

Just about every one of us has something that sets us off in some
way. And just about every one of us has been around someone who seems to be falling apart.

It might be a child in your life, a family member, a friend, a co-
worker or even an overriding "mood" in a larger group or culture.

It can be really tricky to keep the connection between you and you
strong when others around you appear to be overwrought, overwhelmed or in some way "losing it."

Of course, we want to be there and assist our children or others in our lives who are experiencing a crisis-- or even a short-lived meltdown.

But, just like me with my fruit-phobic son, we can't do that if we lose
don't keep it together ourselves!

Practice these 3 ways to hold your center...

#1) Remember to breathe.

This tip could probably be included on every list of parenting, relationship or personal growth advice.

It's that important.

A direct re-linking between you and your center is a deep, diaphragmatic breath.

When we are triggered, stressed or shocked-- even if we are
witnessing the meltdown of another person-- the tendency is to hold the breath.

Regularly direct your attention to your breathing. If it is shallow, seems confined to the chest or is being held, invite yourself to breathe deeply.

Visualize your breath coming from your lower abdomen and then moving throughout your whole body. Make sure that both your in-breath and your out-breath are full and

The magic of the breath is that it can loosen up tight spaces-- on
physical and emotional levels. It creates space and within that
space you can return to your center.

#2) Don't add your own story.
As I described above, in the past when my son appeared to be falling apart around fruit, I have unfortunately fueled the intensity with my own thoughts.

If I don't stay tuned in to myself, I can very easily intensify the situation by adding my own story.

We all have stories that we tell ourselves. This is how we
understand ourselves, others and events. It is natural and, perhaps,

But when those stories are allowed to grow and continue
unquestioned, they can cause all kinds of trouble.

Be aware of the stories you are telling yourself about what you
think you are seeing. If someone you care about, like your child, seems to be "losing it," don't assume that he or she is.

It is possible that what seems to you like "falling apart" is not
what the other person is experiencing. For whatever reason, what you think you are seeing is simply inaccurate.

Perhaps the person actually is going through a difficult time, but
has been feeling some improvement.

If you come along and label his or her situation in a negative way, the improvement that the person was feeling might crash to the ground.

Remember that your stories are about you-- and often relate to your past. Sometimes they are accurate, but be sure to check first before acting.

#3) Be a source of support, not another stressor.
Nothing is worse than wanting to be supportive of a loved one, but
realizing that you only added more stress to his or her life.

If you'd like to be helpful, ask first. Does this person want your
assistance? If so, what specifically would be welcomed?

Really listen to the response you get when you extend an offer of
support. Honor whether it's a "yes" or a "no."

As you tune in to the stories that you might be telling yourself
about what you are perceiving, be aware if you have the urge to
"solve" the problem for your loved one.

If you discover that you are feeling an urge to "fix," return to your breathing and dig deeper within yourself to learn more.

None of us want the people we care about to suffer or be in pain.
But we cannot truly be a source of support if our intention is to
swoop in and "fix" whatever is going on.

We simply can't do this, no matter how badly we'd like to.

Often, an urge to "fix it" indicates that you are triggered by
whatever you perceive is happening. Explore your own feelings and take steps to soothe yourself first.

Perhaps the best way that you can support another who seems to be falling apart is to pause and re-connect with your center before
doing or saying anything.

Reach into yourself for that sense of calm, assurance and love and allow those energies to extend out to the other person.

Amy Phillips-Gary is a freelance writer, personal growth coach and a life adventurer.


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