Staying Off the Rollercoaster

Staying Off the Rollercoaster — Have you ever felt that trying to keep up with your child’s moods and behaviors is like riding on a rollercoaster? I remember the old-time rollercoaster. Slowly the car would climb to the top of the first peak. Even though it was slow, we knew the inevitable plunge was coming, that mind-numbing, scream-inducing plunge. But first there was this slow ticking as if we were being cranked slowly into place.

If you know your children, the warning signs of a meltdown are as distinct as the ticking of the car climbing into place at the top. You scramble in your mind on how to head it off at the pass. You hope to stop things before they careen out of control. Sometimes you want to just slam on the brakes. But each time you attempt that, things just get worse.
What can you do when behavior and emotions are irrational? Some thoughts I picked up at the Reclaiming Hope conference a couple of weeks ago might prove helpful:
  1. When we respond out of the trauma we see, we often escalate it.
  2. Be curious (not furious) as to what we are seeing.
  3. There is usually a need driving a behavior. All behavior is communication. There is usually more to the story. Ask God to give us insight into the situation since often our children don’t even understand themselves in the moment. Sometimes the misbehavior is a time when our children are testing us, trying to see if we will be a firm anchor for them.
  4. God designed us to be anchors for our children. But anchors must be “set”, able to grab hold to keep a boat still against a current. In each situation, seek to be anchored in God and let the Holy Spirit be in charge. During the times when you are not with your children, take time to get anchored in the Word; anchored in your own relationship with the Lord Jesus.
  5. Like Jesus, we are to be WITH our children. At the start of two gospels, this characteristic of Jesus was highlighted — He is nicknamed Emmanuel, God with us, in Matthew 1:23. And we are told that He dwelt among us (John 1:14); that He came and set up His tent with us.

At times all this means is that we just sit with a child while he or she works through feelings. One speaker at the conference suggested to say, “Boy, there’s a lot going on. Let’s just breathe together while we collect ourselves.” Then just take 4-10 deep breaths, in through the nose and out through the mouth slowly.

This can help us and our child to get regulated, to have sufficient oxygen and time to allow the thinking part of the brain to kick in, instead of just the emotions. Until children start to get regulated, reasoning with them seldom works.

We need to be careful not to get on the roller coaster with them. Be there to wave as they pass by and when they get off the roller coaster. This is usually easier said than done; but very important. Children need us to be a steady calming force in their lives.
This steadiness comes only from Christ, the anchor for our souls, firm and secure, reaching into the very throne room of God, with the rope tied securely around Jesus Himself. (Hebrews 6:19) Let’s cling to Him together, Christopher
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