How to have a “Recovery Talk” with your Child

Last week I talked about small failures in parenting and how they are actually a good thing to help you grow as a parent as well as helping your child learn how to cope in an imperfect world. 

Now, there are MANY different ways a parent can fail a child. Not all of them require a “recovery talk”. Think about times when your child needs to learn how to self soothe because of an uncomfortable situation (i.e. going to bed without you OR dropping them off at preschool and leaving while they’re crying). In these situations, their negative emotion is based out of fear or anxiety of not having you with them, therefore, they need to learn how to self soothe (because they will be in many situations where you are not immediately with them). During times like these, when you’re listening to your child cry because you can’t or won’t be with them, guilt can creep in and you can feel like a failure. In these cases I use validation of their feelings while talking to them. (For more content on this, stay tuned). 

The parenting fail that requires a recovery talk is when you lose control of your own emotions and your actions end up hurting your child’s feelings (yelling, jumping to the wrong conclusion, grabbing too hard, snapping at them, etc…). In these situations, you need to apologize. This is where you model the behavior you want your child to learn.  And because a Good Enough apology is more than just saying “sorry”, here is a step by step guide on how to have a recovery talk with your child. 

Emotional Regulation. Chances are if you snapped or yelled, you lost control of your emotions (that’s ok, it happens to all of us – I too did not understand how hearing “mom” for the fifteen-hundredth time could make me want to literally jump out of my skin). Take a minute to walk away and give yourself a short break to calm down. Focus on your breathing and replacing those negative thoughts with more positive ones. Sensory work can help as well if you need to emotionally regulate quickly (splashing water on your face OR walking outside in 40 degree weather). 

Re-engage & Apologize. It’s important to remember that apologies do not include the word “but” in them. “I’m sorry, but…” is not an apology, it’s an excuse. Excusing your behavior because of something your child did (or didn’t do) teaches them your behavior is their fault.

Recovery. Recovery includes validation and expression of feelings. “Mommy felt so frustrated that I ended up yelling.” “It makes you feel sad when mommy yells.” Help them identify their own feelings and then validate as well as explaining your feelings. Again, your feelings are based on your own triggers, not on your child’s behavior. If you yelled because they weren’t listening then you felt frustrated because you felt unheard. see what I did there? 

Learning. After you validate and express feelings, it’s time to discuss alternative ways to cope with the negative emotions you both felt. This is where you learn together how to handle yourself better next time! Have them help you identify ways to cope with frustration! They need to learn it too!

Reconnect. Finally, it’s time to reconnect with your child by doing something together you both enjoy. Tell them you love them and then have a snuggle, read a book together, or play for a bit! 

All in all, recovery talks are a learning process for everyone involved. By doing it together, you are teaching them it’s normal to make mistakes, it’s ok to apologize even if we didn’t mean to hurt someone, and that recovery and reconnection foster trust. 

If your parenting fails include abuse or neglect, it’s time to reach out to a professional for help. 

Be Good Enough,

Stephanie Kemme

The Good Enough Mom,

Published by annkendig

I am a mental health and addiction therapist in Cincinnati Ohio. Happy exploring and may all beings be well.

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