Repairing Ruptures in Parent-Child Relationships

By Melissa Xuereb, Parent Coach at Parenting Takes Courage

At the invitation of Sherry Yuan Hunter here at Sandwich Parenting, I will be writing a semi-regular blog about Empowered Parenting.

Olivia (left) and Charlie (right). Daughter and son of Melissa and Thomas Xuereb. Photo credit: Elizabeth Anne Photography

This morning as the rain poured, Charlie, Olivia and I were leaving the house. Our car undercover was mostly surrounded by (attractive) puddles. The kids had their gumboots on. “Come this way, Liv”, Charlie called out as I was ushering her to the car door. “No!”, I called back, “this side”. I was trying to keep Olivia away from the puddles because moments before she announced, “Me jump in puddles!”

In the blink of an eye, I could foresee soaked tights and thought, “there’s no time for outfit changes right now!” The car ignition was on. It was simply time to get butts in seats!

“Liv COME!” he yelled once more. “NO! DO NOT! I yelled back, with great intensity.”

I scooped up Olivia and helped her into the car. Charlie managed to squeeze in as well and then used his legs to obstruct her access to the seat. I was being as gentle as possible with my physical help. I held Charlie’s legs to the side so that Liv could pass. He strongly resisted.

Here comes further evidence of my dysregulated state… S L A M! (Thank goodness no fingers were in the way of that door). It was the kind of slam that brought me brief satisfaction. Cue feelings of guilt and regret.

Halfway to our destination, I regained inner safety and was ready to repair. I adjusted my rear-view mirror to see him and said, “Charlie, can I talk to you about how I slammed the car door?” He nodded. “I want to apologise for doing that. I was hoping to leave the house on time today, and with all those puddles around us and you telling Liv to go close to them, I could see her getting very wet and needing to be changed. In my mind, I panicked because I knew there was no time to go inside to find replacement clothes. “I’m sorry if I scared you.”

“It’s okay”, he responded, as cool as a cucumber.

Since debriefing with my amazing coach Sherry, I realise that Charlie knows the door slam was about my ‘stuff’, not HIM. He has clearly learnt that people get angry/frustrated, it is their experience and he is not to blame. Through previous repairs, I have supported Charlie to separate this out.

Ruptures in relationships are opportunities to reconnect and repair.

Jai Institute for Parenting.

It is possible to work with your child(ren) to engage in the art of repair from a place of inner safety. (Meaning, even mistakes are safe and we can recover from them).

Inevitably, we are going to experience high-stress moments (or seasons of life), be unable to self-regulate and offer co-regulation to our child(ren).

When you forgive yourself for the mistakes you make, then your apology can ‘land’ for your child(ren) in a way that balances their inner disequilibrium and supports and repairs your relationship.

It is my intention to continue to help my children detach from my dysregulation. In other words, I do not want Charlie and Olivia to attach my dysregulation to it being their fault. My feelings, fears and triggers are mine to own and work through, not theirs!

Charlie and Olivia. Photo credit: Elizabeth Anne Photography

If you would like support learning how to engage in the art of repair with your child(ren), I lovingly invite you to schedule an informational chat with me to see if we’re a good fit to work together. Supporting parents to step forward into growth is one of my favourite things to do!

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