How do I build a relationship with my child?
In this situation, Jocelyn is experiencing a ‘stress outlier‘. This happens to everyone from time to time. When you are very scared for example, or when someone does something terrible to you. An outlier can go up or down. Look at the picture below:
A little stress is good, because it helps us to stay active and focused. As long as you stay in the green zone, so without outliers, you can think clearly about what you do and how you do it. And you can keep thinking about what the effects of your actions are on others.
Your stress window: Window of Tolerance
Every person needs a certain amount of stress to do the things that are needed. This stress remains within the ‘stress window’. You can continue to think calmly, plan and so on. In case of danger, your brain sends a strong signal: danger! An alarm response occurs in the body. The stress level increases rapidly in such a case. If the stress level is too great, you end up in the red zone. You lose control. You respond, but your responses are severe and intense and without control. Or you get into the lower grey zone. You lose yourself, too, but you no longer respond. You seem numb, or frozen…. It's like you're not really there. It can be difficult or confusing for your child if you barely show any response for a long time. This can make your child anxious and withdraw or try much harder to get your attention.
The video is an animation about children, but explains the ‘Window of Tolerance’ very well. You will recognise yourself in it as an adult too!
Jocelyn and Abby
Abby's behaviour reminds his mother of bad things that happened in the past. This memory gives her so much stress that she responds without thinking. She starts yelling. She's in the red zone.
This is stressful for Abby, too. He is small and can't yet express what it's like for him. He may get scared and will not be able to do anything. He comes into the grey zone and retreats. He may not even hear his mother anymore.
Jocelyn feels like a bad mother and a bad person. This is stressful again, and it makes her angry with Abby. She thinks he's making her angry on purpose, or she thinks that he has all the bad characteristics of his father. It's hard to see anything positive.
Jocelyn and Abby are stuck in a negative cycle.
If you also feel you're in a negative cycle with your child, the following exercises can help. Choose the exercise(s) that suit your situation.
In order not to get into the red zone, it helps to calm down by thinking about something else, even if you stay in the same room. For example, by focusing on your breathing. First change your position: If you're standing up, sit down for a moment. Lean your back against the chair and place your feet side by side in front of you on the floor. Feel the way you are sitting and exhale through your mouth, as if you were blowing through a straw. Squeeze your hands together, relax them, and place them with your fingers spread on your thighs.
In order not to get into the lower grey zone, it can actually help to do something that gives you a little lift. For example, having a mint, or a slice of lemon. Or open a window and breathe in some fresh air.
You must do both things on time, because you can transition from one area to the next very quickly! If you practice at a time when you feel little or no stress, you may think about it sooner when you need it.
Perfect mothers don't exist. You can be kind to yourself and say: “I didn't do that right. That's a shame, but there are things I do well.” Try to think of a moment when you and your child had fun together and take a picture of it in your mind. Remember that image and try to create more of those moments.
Take your time at a quiet moment. Sit down, relax, and say something nice to yourself. Then think of someone you like and trust and who knows you and your child. Look at your child with through the eyes of this person. What do they see? What positive qualities would they describe? Repeat this a few times, also with other people who know you and your child.
When Jocelyn does this exercise, she thinks of a good friend who thinks that Abby is a go-getter and that it will take him a long way. She also said at one stage that he has her eyes.