Robust ThemeDec 09, 2019 2020-04-08 7:40
4 Easy Lessons from a Sore Shoulder Every Parent Needs to Master
How My Dumb Mistake Can Teach Families to Heal Quickly Now
“Is the pain a constant throb or a spikey pain?” the therapist will probably ask me.
“Both!” I imagine myself answering.
A few weeks ago, instead of waiting for help, I moved a heavy desk by myself, down two flights of stairs, and into my new home office.
You see, after that new office area was complete, I got ahead of myself. I was excited to have a quiet space to do my work. After months of sharing space with my son and wife, as they worked and schooled from home, it was pretty exciting to be able to focus again. And, I wanted to make this happen, right now.
So, in a moment of non-brilliance, I decided I could carry this large desk by myself. About halfway down the stairs with this desk, I heard - and felt - something go pop.
I winced in pain and thought my arm would give out. Somehow I managed to keep going and get the desk in it’s spot downstairs. Because I hurt myself in a way I “shouldn’t” have, I was pretty embarrassed. I first tried not to make a big deal out of it. I should be able to get over it.
Weeks later though, it still hurts - a lot. Little things like just putting on a shirt set off the pain. Most nights I wake myself up with the pain too. Advil and ice help some - but the throbbing and spikes of pain keep coming back. So much for pretending and hoping to just get over it.
For a moment, let me draw a parallel how this can be similar to what many of us parents do. Life throws us a curve, and in wanting to just “roll” with it we can attempt to ignore the pain and struggles. However, the pain doesn’t magically go away, no matter how much we may want issues to just go away. This can be especially true if our kids are struggling with something we don’t yet know how to handle.
Here are four ways to address that “shoulder pain” you may experience as a parent, and get past it as a family:
- Connect - In my shame from my dumb choice, I didnt reach out to ask for help from anyone. I thought I had to go it alone. For a lot of parents, this can be the exact same pattern. We can be embarassed of our child’s behavior and hide from social events. Instead of this, consider connecting with a trusted friend or family member. Also, for your child, find a way after the event to connect with them to see if you can find out what’s behind the behavior. They may be embarrassed and not yet know what to do.
- Empathize and Validate - With my shoulder, I first pretended the pain didn’t exist. That didn’t help anything, as the tendons and nerve cells did their job to tell me something was wrong. Similarly, with our kids, it’s important to validate what is going on for them. While it might not seem big to us adults, it is to them. Instead of dismissing things as small, it can be helpful to say things like “oh, I understand why you would be mad at that” or “it makes sense that you feel that way.” Remember yourself at that age and what was big to you then. How would you talk to that young version of you in a supportive way?
- Seek Help From Existing Channels - For my shoulder, I went with ice and Advil for a bit, and then sought out my trusted professionals. More on that later. For our kids, it can be tempting to try the “new” thing we see in a Facebook ad or a friend tells us about. For just a moment, remember your trusted channels. Maybe there’s a counselor that has been really great, or a book that you loved from a professional that gave you great ideas - or just something in your heart you think is right. Consider those paths, even if you feel embarrassed.
- Consider Different Proven Methods - In addition to the “normal” paths, there are likely some other effective ways to heal up the damage I did to my shoulder. Similarly, with parenting, we should consider other proven approaches. While it can be comfortable to go with what we know from our family of origin, those solutions don’t always hold for some of our kids or today’s situations. Drat. The good news is that there are many evidence-based approaches these days that can help parents and children enjoy better results. Where you can, consider an alternative approach to your normal go-to, as part of the solution mix. Perhaps Einstein described this best - “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” Put another way, if our existing parenting strategies were working, we’d have results by now. We likely need a different approach for things to improve.
So, what’s up with my shoulder now?
As I’m writing this, I am taking action on steps three and four. I’ll call both my wife’s trusted physical therapist as well as the phenomenal acupressure doctor we have gone to on occasion. I may also seek out an orthopedic surgeon for advice as well. No more hiding in pain or being embarrassed for my dumb decision.
You see, just like our kids, who may be struggling with issues right now, the pain doesn’t go away by itself and they don’t just “get over it”. Remember you have decades of coping skills, and experience handling all sorts of situations. Our kids will need some help and guidance to get through some things, as they aren’t yet platinum elite coping professionals.
We should also avoid holding our kids to the same standards as adults. They aren’t grown-up yet. Their brains don’t fully form until about age 25. In the meantime, they will do interesting things... like carrying a heavy desk down the stairs by themselves… and hey, I’m supposedly an adult who knows better, right? Oops.
If you would like to know more about the proven methods we took in my family (and I share with clients) to avoid wincing at outbursts and breakdowns, you may want to start with my eBook Listen Up. And, if you happen to be a teacher, we have a new, neuroscience-based program to help in the classroom (complete with college credits for continuing education).
Whatever steps you choose, just know you don’t need to stay in pain.
Neither do your kiddos.