When was the last time you spent 24 hours of your day with your spouse or your children? This pandemic has made that a reality, for all of us.

In the beginning of this circuit breaker, some of us rejoiced at the time we would get to spend with our families, especially our children. 4 weeks in, not so much.

Research has shown that this quarantine can mess up our emotions. Losing our sense of routine, replaced with feelings of being trapped. Sparking boredom, frustration, irritability, loneliness, stress or even anger.

The fact that we are home all the time, unable to grab a coffee with a friend, go to the gym or have our favourite bubble tea, or any of our usual forms of release, only magnifies our internal tension. As adults, though we are capable of self-control, we still struggle with not letting our emotions take over our actions and words. More often than not, they sometimes spill over in our interactions with the people who are closest to us.

In the same way, our children are experiencing the same emotions as us, except that they may not be able to articulate or as effectively manage what they are feeling.

They are able to understand tangible realities like the fact that they cannot see their friends anymore, that the number of COVID-19 cases are rising each day, that they cannot buy their favourite food or snacks, the change in the way they have to learn. These external influences put a demand on their emotional well-being and could lead to anxiety.

Their self-awareness has not fully developed yet, which means that they do not entirely understand their emotional response to these realities; what they are feeling or why they are feeling it. This may result in behaviour that we do not expect, or have never seen previously.

It could look like your child crying over things that usually would not affect them, seemingly minor incidents, like losing a game they were playing, or that their pencil is not sharp enough. Perhaps they get easily irritated when someone is speaking too loudly in the house. When you ask a simple question like, “what are you doing?”, they react as if you are interrogating. Maybe they spend long periods of time in their room without interacting with you. They do things to provoke their siblings more often, or become fussier with what they will and will not eat. They follow you around wherever you go, or they ask way too many questions that they expect you to answer even when you are visibly busy.

In response, we sometimes hear ourselves say, “why are you so nice to your friends but with me you are…”. The truth is, when our children act up, show a tantrum, lash out or are rude to us, it also signals to us that they feel comfortable and safe to show that side of themselves to you. It may not always be a bad thing for them to express their negative emotions.

As parents, we do our best to understand our children’s’ behaviour, because we want to help them. Sometimes we are unable to do much because we do not know how to approach them, or they do not know how to respond to us.

We might even find ourselves in a vicious cycle where their anger triggers our own, and we end up in an escalating shouting match.

This does not have to be the case. When we respond in a way that they do not expect, we throw in a circuit breaker. Much like how the COVID-19 CB has disrupted our lives, this circuit breaker disrupts the potential heated argument, and turns it into teachable moments for our children.

In order to help you facilitate these conversations with your children, whether it is to build your relationship with them, or to help them navigate their thoughts and feelings, here are some tools that you can use to communicate better with them:

CREATING A SAFE SPACE

When speaking to your children, especially about things that are more personal, like their feelings, it is necessary that they feel safe to share them with you.

If you scolded them for something they did or got frustrated with them, it is alright to not rectify it at that moment. When our emotions are high, we are not in a state to listen to anybody. As parents, we have nuggets of wisdom to share with our children so that they can become the best versions of themselves.

However, when they are emotionally frustrated or hurt, that wisdom is short changed because they are not ready to listen. Anything that we say can come off as a personal attack to them or taken out of context.

What matters is that we create a safe space: calm, dessert (optional but preferable), conversation friendly.

Remind them that there is no correct or wrong answer. It is a time and space where you and your child can be vulnerable and not be judged for it.

As they share, we should bite our tongue and avoid commenting on what they are sharing. With every word they share, they are also testing the boundary to see how much they can open up or how much they should hold back. When we respond too quickly without allowing them to finish, they may not feel like they can be honest with you.

Most importantly, we should keep to our word and not let our objections show, or act defensive, especially if their sharing may imply something negative about us. It is not a time to point out their flaws or find fault. It is a time where we seek to understand them better.

VALIDATE THEIR FEELINGS

After we have created a safe space for them, they will begin sharing what they are feeling and going through. It is not easy for them or anyone to share things that we are not proud of or things that make us feel small or think negatively about ourselves. When they make themselves vulnerable, do validate their feelings.

Phrases that echo what they are feeling like, “that must have been very difficult for you to go through” or “it must have been very frustrating when that happened”, gives them the confidence to share more.

Affirm them for being brave enough to share. Listen to what they are saying. When we acknowledge and validate their feelings, we help to build their self-esteem. We empower them to accept both their positive and negative feelings, and to not always act on it. Instead of judging with the benefit of hindsight, how they could have handled the situation better, help them see that it is okay to err, and they do not have to be afraid to try again.

CHECK-INS AND CHECK-OUTS

Questions like “how are you feeling about this circuit breaker” or “why are you behaving this way”, can be loaded questions that will lead to silence or your children shutting you out. One way to help them open up, is by starting with simple questions like:

Check-In at the start of the day: What is 1 thing you want to do today? It can be anything they want to accomplish for themselves, not what you expect them to do.

Check-Out at the end of the day: what is 1 win we want to celebrate?

You may get one word answers like, “nothing” or a blank stare. Do not be disheartened. Perhaps you can model the way and share first. Or perhaps find a different tack: “What is 1 fruit that would describe how your day went?”

Help them to recognise the small wins in their day. Simple questions like these are light and easy for them to respond to. When they feel comfortable sharing the small things, it allows you to build towards sharing something deeper later on.

FAMILY JOURNALLING TIME

For some of us, we may not be comfortable with verbal communication. Another method that we could try is writing down our thoughts and feelings. You could set aside one notebook for the family to write anything that they would like to share, but may not be comfortable saying it face to face. You may also ask each member of the family to have their own notebook, where they could write about different things each day, and let each other read about it. Things like:

  • One thing that made me frustrated
  • One thing that was exciting
  • One thing that I am grateful for
  • Something I read or heard that made me smile
  • A song that was stuck in my head today

Remember that this is not a composition exercise and that you do not need to correct spelling and grammar as you read their journal entries.  

DAILY DOODLES

Sometimes, speaking or writing may not be the best medium to express themselves. They may not be able to find the right words to describe how they are feeling. Consider using doodles as a form of expression instead. Before the day begins or when the day ends, you could spend 5 minutes with them drawing a picture that describes how each of your day was like.

If they feel that they are not good at drawing, let them google images, use magazines or even newspaper cut-outs to make collages that can help describe their day.

You could also prompt them to explain what they put together with neutral questions like, “could you share with me what this is over here?” and “what is so special about it that you chose to add it into your picture?”.

TALK ABOUT THE CORONAVIRUS

This could be the source for the roller coaster of emotions we all have been feeling. Our children have the access to the same information that we have. However, most of their news sources are often sensationalised versions they encounter on their social media pages. Speaking to an informed adult could help them have an accurate idea of what is really happening outside of your home.

You could begin with asking them these questions:

  • What’s the funniest piece of news you have heard about Covid-19?
  • What are your friends doing during the circuit breaker? Are they bored at home?
  • What do you like about this circuit breaker?
  • Is there anything that bothers you about this Covid-19 situation?
  • What is the first thing you want to do when this ends?

If you have no idea where to start, perhaps start from the bigger picture – what is going on around the world, how are their friends doing – and then zoom into asking them about how they feel. Be prepared to share your thoughts too. Keep it light-hearted and see where the conversation takes you. This is the first step into talking about other external events that could affect us in the future.

 COMMUNICATION IS A JOURNEY…

It is needful for us to recognise that communication with our children, whether as toddlers or teenagers, is a process of building bridges. It does not happen overnight. The key thing to remember about these suggestions is that they are ways to create opportunities to reach out to your child, especially when they are struggling to process and understand what is going on around them.

It is about finding different ways for them to respond to you and remember that no matter what situation they find themselves in, you are someone whom they can feel safe enough to confide in and grow with.

It is not easy but know that even if they do not respond in the way you expect them to, they do recognise that you are trying and are doing something different. Sometimes, it just takes them some time to process and respond back. Remember that every time you try, you are building the foundations of stronger communication between you and your child.

This COVID-19 situation will pass, but the connections that you are building today will last.

Attitudes are a powerful determinant of whether you are a successful person or not.

What attitude you carry is demonstrated in your behaviour. If you choose to believe that you are capable of achieving your goals and reaching your dreams, naturally your actions would reflect that. Conversely, if you hold on to the belief that you are not good enough or that you are not worthy, you may find yourself giving up more easily and being unconvinced that there is a point in continuing to try.

Your attitude also determines your outcome. You may not be able to change you circumstances, but you are able to change your attitude on the situation. Are you going to continue moping because something bad happened, or are you going to adopt a positive attitude and choose happiness instead of prolonged grief?

An undergraduate psychology textbook defines attitude as:

“Positive or negative evaluations or beliefs held about something that in turn may affect one’s behaviour; attitudes are typically broken down into cognitive, affective and behaviour components.“

Cognitive attitudes have to do with understanding and knowledge of a certain thing or situation, affective refers to attitudes that stem your emotions and feelings while behaviour points to how you would naturally react when you come across a specific situation.

Thus, our attitudes can vary widely and can be influenced by many factors.

However, we are not passive agents in this, and have a say in what attitudes we choose to adopt in our lives.

So how do we improve our attitudes?

1. Affirm yourself

Do this multiple times a day, every day. Look at yourself in front of the mirror and tell yourself the positive attributes that you have. This serves to fuel your subconscious with positive thinking, which will in turn trigger positive feelings that will influence your actions.

2. Know what motivates you

What are some of the things that will make you take action and make change? Know them, and use them to your advantage.

3. Visualise what you want to achieve

Envisioning yourself at the place you want to be motivates you and helps to improve your attitude as you continue pressing on to reach your end goal.

4. Be intentional with your actions

Always act with a purpose and be conscious of what that purpose is. Does it value add to you and help you reach or goals? Or is it aimless and a waste of time.

5. Understand that you do not always have to be right

Life becomes a lot easier when you come to terms with the fact that it’s okay to give in sometimes. Sometimes there is no point in arguing, especially if the other party cares more about who is right rather than what is right.

6.Exercise

Besides the health benefits of exercise, it releases endorphins that help you to feel good, moving you towards a more positive and motivated frame of mind. Exercise also causes you to feel better physically. It can be difficult to maintain a positive attitude when you don’t feel your best physically.

Why not start applying these tips to your life? You don’t have to be worried about mastering all of these immediately, start small and start seeing the change in the way you face life.

References

Parkany, E., Gallagher, R., & Viveiros, P. (2004). Are attitudes important in travel choice?. Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board, (1894), 127-139.

Whenever we think about who we are and what defines us, we generally drift towards ideas about personalities and the combination of different characteristics and qualities that form ours.

 

Personality types have actually been quite a hot topic as of late, with many people taking personality tests to try and figure out which personality category they fall under.

 

One test commonly used is the DISC behavior assessment tool, used to analyse why different people behave differently.

 

It is based on the DISC theory by psychologist William Moulton Marston. The assessment tool centres on four main personality traits: Dominance (D), Influence (I), Steadiness (S) and Conscientiousness (C).

 

With DISC, we are able to better predict our behavior in terms of how we live our lives and how we deal with others. Understanding what motivates you, what causes you stress and how you solve problems, will come in very useful especially as you work with people in the future and can help to improve your working relations.

 

For example, you might realize through DISC that you are a more task-oriented person, thus you might find it difficult to work with people who are more people-oriented and will need to make adjustments in order to improve working relations. With a better understanding of ourselves, we will also be better able to tap on our strengths and work on our weaknesses.

 

Definitely who we are cannot be wholly encapsulated by one personality type. We are all made up of a blend of personality types, where we range higher on some scales and lower on others. We look at our more dominant ones to understand ourselves better and the blends typically come in the form of D/I, S/C, I/S or D/C.

 

Take a look at the table below for a breakdown of the the different DISC personality types!

Personality type Behaviour Strengths Weaknesses What they want from their role How to improve
High D –  Dominance Determined

 

Opinionated

Direct

 

Egocentric

 

Decisive

 

Demanding

 

 

Problem solver

 

Visionary

 

Independent

 

Self-sufficient

 

Thrives in crises

 

Strong willed

Tendency to be overbearing

 

Rash in making decisions

 

Impatient with poor performance

 

Not very encouraging

Power and authority

 

Prestige

 

Challenge

Be strong willed is good because you won’t give up even when things get tough. However, it is important to know where the boundaries are and when you need to submit to authority. You may not always be right.
High I –

Influence

Can be emotional

 

Persuasive

 

Talks more than listens

 

Animated

 

Outgoing

 

Enthusiastic

Friendly

 

Interest in people

 

Convincing

 

Charismatic

 

Life of the party

More concerned with popularity than tangible results

 

Poor with detail

 

Short attention Span

 

Disorganised

 

More talk than action

 

Makes decisions based on emotions

Visible recognition

 

Approval

 

Popularity

Important to recognize that you thrive when attention is given to you and your ideas are heard, and to bank on that. You work well under pressure and are able to use your influence for good and the betterment of the situation. However it is also important to know that when people are not receptive of your ideas, it doesn’t have to do with who you are as a person. Rejection of your ideas do not equate to rejection of you as a person.
High S –

Steadiness

Stable and steady

 

Consultative

 

Patient

 

Dislike change

 

Reserved

 

Sympathetic

Good listener

 

Compassionate

 

Understanding

 

Patient

 

Predictable

Resists change

 

Holds grudges

 

Spectator

 

Too laid back

 

Indecisive

 

Not goal-oriented

 

Difficulty in establishing priorities

Standardization

 

Security

 

Calm environments

 

Status quo

Do not fear change and conflict. Change and conflict can be scary, but may be necessary.

 

Don’t be afraid to fight for what you want (as long as it isn’t illegal or won’t lead to a physical fight).

 

Change can also be good sometimes. After all, growth occurs outside of your comfort zone.

High C -Conscientiousness Adhere strongly to rules

 

Structured

 

Logical

 

Careful

 

Cautious

 

Diplomatic

 

Proper

 

Hardworking

Competent

 

Analytical

 

Precise

 

Self-disciplined

 

Loyal

Meticulous to a fault

 

Rigid

 

Critical

 

Legalistic

 

Not expressive

 

Unforgiving

Clear expectations

 

Autonomy

 

Recognition of expertise

 

Professionalism

Don’t be afraid of criticism, and instead, embrace it and grow. There isn’t a need to take everything so seriously, sometimes it’s okay to just relax.