In our house, there are craft supplies covering the table, presents waiting to be wrapped, a tree that needs to be decorated and cards that need to be written. There is a heightened sense of gratitude, thinking of others, excitement and anticipation for time with extended family and friends.

And with all the fun and joy, I’m feeling some added stress for myself and our family.

Amidst the stress, there is one thing that I’m saying a lot to my kids right now when I (or they) are feeling frustrated, sad, or even angry – when we need more connection. I also shared these 4 words with one of my coaching clients. She used them with her young daughter during a big upset. And it worked beautifully….

The 4 words are…How can I help?

(And then you listen to the reply)

“How can I help?” works beautifully when kids are feeling angry, because anger is a cry for help. Anger is a social emotion. The purpose of anger is to get someone’s attention to help us! When someone offers help, the purpose of anger is fulfilled. The anger can go away… even before the problem is solved!

Yes, that’s right! You don’t need to solve the child’s problem for her anger to go away, she just needs to know you are available to help.

Even in situations without anger, “How can I help” is really useful….

Here are some examples about how I’ve used it to avoid common “hot spots” in our family (and one time when my daughter used it with me!)

When the kids are moving slowly in the morning and we are already late getting out the door.

Instead of getting upset with them for not getting out of bed earlier, I can say, “How can I help?” (and I listen to the answer). Then I help pack her lunch, or find her lost homework.

When the kids grab something unhealthy to eat because they “can’t find anything good”.

Instead of lecturing about food choices, I can say, “How can I help?” (and listen). Then I make a wrap sandwich and salad for them.

When my own mom is getting stressed about getting dinner on the table to feed the guests and extended family.

Rather than waiting for her to start snapping at people, I can say, “How can I help?” (and listen). Then I find enough spots for everyone to sit.

But here’s the best part….

When I was already late dropping off the gifts at church for the family we adopted for Christmas, our daughter said, “How can I help?” (and she listened). And she helped load everything into the car with me!

So for you, what situation during the holidays can you imagine asking your family, “How can I help?”

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