I often have kids in my office that are feeling sad, worried, or angry related to something that others have said or done. Sometimes there’s a bully on the playground. Maybe they’ve had an argument with a parent or sibling. Or possibly a teacher has given critical feedback. Regardless, negative words create negative energy and we all could use some strategies for how to help ourselves feel better and lessen the stress when we encounter a put down, judgement or critical thought, (even if it’s coming from inside our own head!).
Conflict happens and it produces a lot of stress in its wake if we don’t have effective tools to manage it. Helping kids learn tools to lessen the stress of conflict can increase relaxation and wellbeing throughout life!
I was recently in a training where the facilitator told a story about a boss she once had who effectively managed conflict within the organization. She said he was so curious. When angry words would fly at him, like arrows to a target, he would calmly listen, sometimes seem to even have a slight smile on his face while he waited for the energy to be complete. She asked him once what he was doing, how he could seem so very relaxed in the midst of such chaotic energy. He replied, “I simply move the target. I’ve learned that when I have the target placed over my heart, I feel bad when this energy is coming at me and I take it personally and begin to defend myself, thus engaging in the argument. So, I just move the target to the side and imagine the remarks hitting the target out to the side of me. I like to see how close I can imagine that they are getting to this side target. It helps me stay balanced and focused so that I can calmly respond instead of react.”
I thought–“Wow!” That could be a great visualization to help kids deal with put downs and other negative words. I started helping kids lessen the stress of conflict, by imagining that they did not have a target over their heart, but rather is out to the side. That way they could stay focused, centered, grounded, and cool, calm and collected when they encounter negatively charged interactions.
Move the Target Visualization
Tell your child that next time he experiences conflict, to imagine moving the target from in front of his heart, to hold it out to the side. That way any angry or negative words land on the target out to the side and do not touch him. Help him to understand if he is beginning to feel sad or mad during conflict, it’s a sign to check where his target is. Explain that moving the target out to the side helps us to not take things personally and to distract our mind so that we can stay cool, calm and collected. When we are cool, calm and collected, we are more able to decide what it is that we want to do or say. If we begin to feel really mad or sad, often our brain will freeze up and we won’t know what to say, or we will react with more angry words which just fuels the fire and doesn’t solve the problem.
Move the Target: Guided Imagery Script for Releasing Memories of Conflict
Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths, in through your nose, releasing the breath slowly out through your mouth. Breathe in, one…two…three….four….. Breathe out, one…two…three…four…five….Repeat. Now imagine a time when you were arguing with someone. See their angry words coming at you like arrows. Now look down and see the target that is in front of your heart and pick up that target and gently move it out to the side. See that none of the angry words coming at you are touching you at all, they are all being absorbed by the target that is out to your side. Some of them even just bounce right off this target. None of them can touch you. Now imagine that you have a big, giant bubble all around you. It can be any color you like. It might be blue, yellow, pink, orange. Just notice the color of your bubble. This bubble is a bubble of love, of safety, of feeling good. It’s job is to hold you in safety, to keep you safe. It keeps all of the love inside and all of the angry words outside. It is a very strong bubble. Good!!! Now that you have your target out to the side and your bubble in place, you can feel safe and confident that any angry or negative words can not touch you. When you have totally connected with your bubble, you can begin to return your attention to the room. You can open your eyes when you are ready.
Some Steps For When Conflict Happens
1. Take a deep breath
2. Check your target, if it is in front of your heart (i.e. you are starting to feel sad or mad), move it out to the side. Imagine your target out to the side. Don’t take the words personally.
3. Imagine your feet rooted into the ground
4. Listen first, respond second
5. Breathe. Share your thoughts using “I messages” Begin each sentence with “I see it….” “I feel…..”
6. Get help from an adult if you need it.