Sandy-ied-out

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz  November 1, 2012 06:00 AM

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Dear Barbara,
I have a question about how much I have to hide my personal frustrations, annoyances, anger, call it what you want, from my kids. I'm not talking about anger management -- not talking about serious anger problems that spill over into abusive language or behavior -- I'm talking about ordinary kinds of things, like this week when I was frustrated that there was no school because of Sandy and I had to stay home for two days and I had so much work to do. I wanted to have it be a fun kind of day, and play board games with my daughters ( 7& 5) but, honestly, I was too frustrated with everything to be fun. The older one actually said, "Mom, what's your problem?" Should I have just been truthful and told her the storm was trying my patience? I think maybe by saying, Oh, nothing, that I made a mistake because I could tell she didn't believe me even though I thought I was somehow protecting her.

From: Sandy-ied-out, north of Boston

Dear Sandy-ied-out,

Two things:
1. You're right, she probably didn't believe you. Kids engage in what's known as magical thinking. They are constantly trying to figure out the way things in their lives connect to each other. When they don't have concrete pr accurate information, they make up the facts and fit them into a story. Usually the story they create is way beyond reality, often more frightening or scary than the truth. What's more, because kids are so ego-centric, they often put themselves smack in the middle of the story. With your daughter, she might have been thinking, "Mom's unhappy. It's my fault. I was bad." You've just said that wasn't it at all, but unless she knows an age-appropriate version of the truth she will engage in magical thinking.

2. Just because you're a parent doesn't mean you aren't entitled to bad moments. Showing honest emotion, even when it's negative, is not only OK, it's important. Otherwise, how else will children learn to manage their own negative thoughts and feelings? That doesn't mean you can run amok. Here's the caveat: When you express an honest, negative feeling -- "Boy, I'm in such a bad mood from being stuck in the house!" -- what's most important is what you do afterwards. It's unhealthy for your kids if you wallow in it and can't function. But if you recover and move on -- "This is a good time to try some yoga. I'm gonna get out that book I got for Christmas last year. Let's try it together!" -- think of it as giving your child a gift.

How did you all cope with Sandy? We were lucky here in Newton (Ma) and never lost power. Would love to hear how some of you managed, especially if you were stuck at home for days with young children.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
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2 comments so far...
  1. You're not "Sand-ied out". I'd venture to say that you're "worked out", that is so stressed out by work that you can't even enjoy two unexpected days off during. Or maybe you really don't enjoy these stay at home moments. Or maybe you just aren't used to times when everything doesn't your way or as planned.

    Whatever the reason for your frustration, I agree with Barbara, its ok to be open with your children, but you can't make it their problem. And its ok to set aside some time for yourself to get some things done or even wallow in self pity on days that seem like they should be fun. Your children can entertain themselves for a while. I'd set a concrete amount of time that you are going to spend with them and a concrete amount of time you are going to spend doing other things. Set a timer if you have to.

    September 11th was a time like this, when you really couldn't get some things done. No planes flew, no fex ex packages were delivered, suddenly what seemed so important at 8:30 on Tuesday morning seemed so irrelevant by 9:15. Not to be be melodramatic, but a lot of things just aren't that important. They'll get done tomorrow or Wednesday or next week. Its ok to be disappointed that something didn't go as planned. At the same time--that's life and you do have to do some deep breathing and let them go..

    Posted by ash November 2, 12 12:28 PM
  1. Life happens. When I'm upset or frustrated and my 4 year old sees this, I explain it to her appropriately. It helps her to understand that it's nothing to do with her and it's not a bad way to teach kids that you know, parents are people too and have lives that extend beyond the nucleus of the family. Sometimes, that life affects them.

    I think it's actually sort of sad that this even had to be a question. What are you trying to protect your kids from by not telling them the truth anyway?

    Posted by Anon November 5, 12 01:49 PM
 
2 comments so far...
  1. You're not "Sand-ied out". I'd venture to say that you're "worked out", that is so stressed out by work that you can't even enjoy two unexpected days off during. Or maybe you really don't enjoy these stay at home moments. Or maybe you just aren't used to times when everything doesn't your way or as planned.

    Whatever the reason for your frustration, I agree with Barbara, its ok to be open with your children, but you can't make it their problem. And its ok to set aside some time for yourself to get some things done or even wallow in self pity on days that seem like they should be fun. Your children can entertain themselves for a while. I'd set a concrete amount of time that you are going to spend with them and a concrete amount of time you are going to spend doing other things. Set a timer if you have to.

    September 11th was a time like this, when you really couldn't get some things done. No planes flew, no fex ex packages were delivered, suddenly what seemed so important at 8:30 on Tuesday morning seemed so irrelevant by 9:15. Not to be be melodramatic, but a lot of things just aren't that important. They'll get done tomorrow or Wednesday or next week. Its ok to be disappointed that something didn't go as planned. At the same time--that's life and you do have to do some deep breathing and let them go..

    Posted by ash November 2, 12 12:28 PM
  1. Life happens. When I'm upset or frustrated and my 4 year old sees this, I explain it to her appropriately. It helps her to understand that it's nothing to do with her and it's not a bad way to teach kids that you know, parents are people too and have lives that extend beyond the nucleus of the family. Sometimes, that life affects them.

    I think it's actually sort of sad that this even had to be a question. What are you trying to protect your kids from by not telling them the truth anyway?

    Posted by Anon November 5, 12 01:49 PM
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About the author

Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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