We can create a reaction free space simply by calling "tea time". This opens the lines of communication as your child knows whatever they need to share will not "blow up" on them.
Experience…there is no substitute. My Mother in Law is a retired school teacher, Mother of three and Grandmother of eight…when she makes a suggestion I listen.
Tea Time was one of those ideas. Tea Time is our code word for a reaction free space. I use it and believe it is a great communication tip. It helps break down any barriers your child may perceive. This can be especially effective if you have had past issues where you reacted badly or did something that made matters worse.
Remember the important thing is to get the child talking. They are not going to tell you they got in trouble at school if they think they will get in trouble at home. If they are worried about how you will respond you may not get the information you need. Time to check your reaction...
You give your child complete freedom. If they call TEA TIME…you set up a time…and they can tell you anything…done by them,…too them…or something happening with someone else.
You take a deep breath and DO NOT REACT…your job no matter what comes out of their mouth is to listen. LISTEN, fully with complete attention…
This gives both of you some “space”. You have permission to breath deep and stomp out your gut reaction…mamma or papa bear not required in this moment. It is not to say there will not be consequences. However in that moment it is all about hearing them out and allowing them to process it themselves.
KID: “I hurt another kid today and the school
wants to suspend me”
YOU: Oh, I see…tell me more…
KID: “ A group of kids took my lunch money,
called me names and tore my new coat when they were pushing me around”
YOU: Oh, that sounds scary….tell me more
KID: “ I saw a bunch of kids picking on a friend
at school and I was too afraid to do anything about it.”
YOU: I see, you were afraid…tell me more
KID: “ I can’t take anymore…I never get invited
anywhere, they laugh behind my back, nobody wants to be my friend”
YOU: Sounds like a lonely place to be...Can you give me some examples?
I use bullying examples; However, everything is fair game: conflicts with friends, sex, smoking, drugs, pregnancy... etc...etc..
You never know what will come out during a reaction free space or as we call it "tea time". My daughter once called “tea time” when a best friend was having a party and she was not invited. She was very hurt and confused. She cried and I held her…I did not offer advice, philosophise, defend the friend…I just sat and listened (it was very difficult)
Let me just take a second here...and let you know...it may be the hardest thing you will ever do when communicating with your child...I wanted to get in the car and go knocking on some doors...and say "I told you so" etc..etc...However, it was "tea time"...I listened.
Once the emotions were out and she had told me the whole story. I asked if she would like my help? She said no so we left it at that and a couple hours later she came to me again and said she did not know what to do and still felt so betrayed and sad. So, I again asked How can I help? She was not sure…So I asked if maybe it would be helpful for the two of us to brainstorm some solutions and go through the problem solving process.
Keep in mind if your child calls Tea Time and they tell you they know their friend it going to commit a crime or attempt suicide you may have to take immediate action as an adult you will have to use your judgement. Make sure you explain to your child the decision and the reason before you share.
Also, advise your child if you believe they will have to face discipline or consequences for their actions which will come at a later time...NOT during tea time.
However, 99% of the time this works to create the “safe space” your child needs to talk about the most difficult issues especially bullying
Also, realize when our kids call “tea time” sometimes we actually have tea and others we just sit in a quiet spot. You can do as you wish…and for that matter you can call it whatever you like as long as both you and your child know…when the child asks for “the Zone” "a safe talk", "tea time" or to “go for a soda” It is code for I am bothered about something and this is important. I need you to LISTEN.
Remember you may call “tea time” and request a reaction free space too. For example if you implement a bedtime routine and your child tells you the worse part of their day and you listen and believe perhaps there is more to it. You can say…thanks for sharing that it sounds important. If you would like tomorrow we can call a tea time and you can tell me more about it?? Active Listening is key if you want your child to talk to you.
Another great use of reaction free space is if you are in a rush. Your child kind of... off the cuff ...in the middle of a busy morning... when you are already late mentions some kids calling him names…now is not the time in the middle of a stressful morning to do a full Stop …However you can acknowledge your child and tell them that sounds like something important we should have “tea time” later when I can give you my full attention.
Just make sure you remember to get back to your child as they may not bring it up...kids are good at keeping the bullying secret and that one innocent comment could be the only warning sign you get...it may be your only clue…they may not mention it again until it is too late.
Using reaction free space allows for more freedom of speech. Having a variety of these types of communication tips at the ready makes building our relationships with our children easier.
More suggested reading:
Bullying>Parenting Advice>Reaction Free Space
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