Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Getting stuck on the Empathy stage of Plan B

Plan B – working with the child in a collaborative way can meet with many challenges on the way , especially in the first step , getting started with the empathy-information gathering stage. The parent introduces the topic with a neutral observation saying ' I have noticed when , that etc ………, what's up. The kid's response of I don't know, silence or I don't want to talk about it can be very unsettling.

When a child says ' I don't know ' , we can try to clarify what this means. Does 'I don't know ' mean - you have some ideas of what is bothering you or what your concerns are but you are having difficulty in finding the words to say it. ? Your child may have difficulty in communicating her concerns because of lagging language processing skills.

Other possibilities of why your child is not responding to the ' what's up question.

It could be that in the past kids have had their concerns ignored and therefore don't have the experience or skills to put their concerns on the table or they have not given it much time or thought. Kids concerns are generally not on the tip of their tongues.

Silence may indicate that they need more time to think. So make them feel comfortable about taking their time, rather than immediately making tentative suggestions or asking questions.

In many instances we have been too vague and general in presenting the unsolved problem, so the child isn't exactly sure what you are trying to get information about. We need to be very specific and give as many details as possible when describing the problem.

The neutral part of the empathy step may have not been very neutral and sounded too much like Plan A , an attempt to impose your solution.

Your kid may think that you are mad at her and she needs a reassurance that you are not. You also want to reassure her that you don't want to impose your solution or force her to comply with your wishes. We can say ' I am not mad at you , I am not going to force you to do anything , I just want to hear your concerns, get your side of the story, hear your perspective '. Sometimes stepping back allows the child to come forward , similar to dancing with a partner. You step back allows your partner to step forward.

We may using Plan B in the moment , emergently rather than proactively. There is little chance of gathering information when there are fireworks, tension , emotional baggage and conflict.

Your child may not yet trust the process and feel that Plan B is just Plan A under a guise of Plan B. The child needs to trust that the process will serve his interests and solve problems to his satisfaction.

It is best to ' connect', enter the child's the world and get a conversation going before getting into Plan B. Conversation that involves sharing feelings about general non-emotive stuff , perspective taking etc .We can reflect on something positive about the child, engage in dialog that shows we understand him and he acknowledges this with a 'yes' answer. We should be in a position we a kid feels good about himself and the relationship with his parent. Doing this over a snack or a treat , giving the process an association of joy can help and open up the child.

If your child is getting stuck we can request permission to ask a few questions. ' If it Ok with you ' we can try and get your perspective on the table by me asking a few questions. All you need to do is answer , yes or know , is this OK ? And we can drill down from there.


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