You can't pour from an empty cup...

Jerrica Danhoff, Associate Marriage and Family Therapist on Oct 11, 2018 in Mood and Feelings

It's 7a.m. at your house and your kids hated their breakfast and decided to have a food fight all around your kitchen. You didn’t get much sleep the night before because you got in an argument with a friend, and to top it all off the kids are now going to be late for school.

You get angry. The yelling begins as you demand them to listen and behave. Now you are feeling guilty for yelling so much and don't have time to process those feelings because don't forget! You are going to be late.

When you finally get the kids out the door, in the car, drop them off at school, you are feeling so stressed out and overwhelmed with emotion.

Does any part about this morning sound familiar to you?

If so, keep reading.

When I am supporting a family , I discuss the importance of listening to and empathizing with children’s feelings. As a parent, this is hard to do if your cup is already running on empty.

It's just as important for you as a person and as a parent to have some listening time to vent about all of the frustrations and challenges in your life.

What I mean by venting is what it's defined as in the dictionary, the expression or release of a strong emotion, energy, etc.

Parenting is both beautiful and challenging. You don't have to hold it all on your own. You can create what hand in hand parenting calls a listening partnership.

What is a listening partnership?

A listening partnership is where two people exchange a timed amount of uninterrupted listening time without offering advice to the person. The listener's job is to be fully present while you off load your frustrations and feelings about the challenges in your life whether it's about how hard it is to be a parent or about the argument you had with your partner this morning. Once the timer goes off, you switch and it's the other person's turn to share while you listen. You can ask for however many minutes you think you will need on a given day. Sometimes you only need five minutes and sometimes maybe you need ten. You can always ask your partner for more time.

Quick step by step guide:

1. Offer warmth and attention to your listening partner as they speak

2. Don’t give advice or interrupt

3. Keep it confidential

*When it's your turn to talk, don't refer back to what your listener just said. Talk only about your feelings and your experiences.

*If you know your listening partner outside of just listening time, don't bring up what they talked about in their listening time. Let it stay in the LP to make it safe for them (and you) to open up.

4. Follow the feelings: allow yourself to punch a pillow, stomp on the ground, laugh hard, cry, and shake at how scary things are. The body release is potent.

Your partner tells you when the time is up and can ask a question to help you center yourself and bring you back to the room/present moment such as, "If you could go anywhere in the world where would it be and why?"

Switch roles and repeat steps 1-4

What is the benefit of creating a listening partnership?

During those really overwhelming and stressful days as I mentioned above, you have someone to reach out to for support. Someone to listen while you vent, cry, pound a pillow, or yell to express your frustrations. By having a space to off-load those feelings, you feel lighter. You have more space and energy to give to your children when they get home from school. You have more space to listen to them about their feelings and empathize with them. You have more energy to play with them and connect with them.

I'd like to challenge you to try it out with someone you trust. See what you notice. Do a check-in with yourself before and after. Do you feel lighter? Do you feel less overwhelmed? Do you feel like you have more space to give to others?

Please feel free to reach out to learn more about how to find or create a listening partnership.

It can make a huge difference in your life.

You deserve just as much support as you are giving to your children.

Jerrica Danhoff is a Associate Marriage & Family Therapist in San francisco, CA.
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