Reparation Exercise – Relationship reparation exercise

posted 3 Jul 2014, 10:41 by Mark O'Connell   [ updated 3 Jul 2014, 10:41 ]

It is not uncommon to have relationship ruptures with the children we care for. (Just today as I am writing this exercise I created a conflict with my daughter on the way to school.....)

The more serious a rupture the harder it will be to repair. However the reparation of ruptures, and regaining trust and respect for one another in relationship is a hugely valuable experience. Good for relationships now and in the future. It enables us and the child to create more resilience and ability to ‘bounce back’ from difficult situations.

So what will be important for repairing a relationship. Here is an exercise which may help us have a method for approaching repair.

1.     Reaching consent to repair - Possibly the first thing that is important is that you state that you would wish to repair the rupture which has taken place. If your child or partner doesn’t feel able to approach the repair just yet, then try doing this as an innerwork rather than in relationship in the first instance – you may be surprised how this can have an effect on the actual relationship – with innerwork you need to work on both sides of the relationship, rather than your own). If you consent together then go onto the next step.

2.     The most important thing in repairing a relationship is that both sides of the relationship are able to feel heard and understood in terms of their experience. As the adult it may be important that you can begin this by modeling a deep understanding and willing to listen and understand your child’s experience.

3.     Starting with an apology – A quick way into reparation is an apology from the adult side. If you are able to see already that you didn’t respond well to the original conflict and this contributed to the rupture, then it can be very helpful with taking responsibility for your side of things. (In my experience with my daughter this morning, I was very reactive and responded angrily and lost my awareness of the whole situation. I forgot she is stressed and just saw her as nasty. I framed her as nasty and didn’t notice the areas in which she was just a normal teenager in the morning). “The way I reacted to you this morning wasn’t great. I took out some of my own stresses on you, and also forgot that you are under a lot of pressure right now”.

4.     Ask your child what their experience was and try active listening with no corrective comments or judgements – Just listen to exactly how the child experienced things. (** when there is a lot of abuse or trauma in the background your child may well have experienced you in ways which you feel are unfair. Try to bear in mind that they are talking about how they experienced things, not only you. This is truly the level of experience they are facing internally, and triggered in the relationship).

5.     Finding truth in any accusations – Even when there are big projections there are often little truths in accusations.  The skill here is to acknowledge the truths without necessarily taking on the abuse history of the child. For example if your child says you hurt them, it may pay to take seriously that maybe your physical size, your voice tone, or even the speed or energy which you spoke or dealt with them may be experienced as hurtful. Try to unpick this and understand this with your child. N.B. If you discover or know that you were hurtful to your child, then try to acknowledge it. Either way it is relieving if you can acknowledge that your child’s experience is what they experienced, and to show concern, curiousity and understanding.  Listening to your child’s version of the story   and acknowledging how they experienced things is itself a very different experience from having been hurt and their ‘voice’ never heard.

6.     Change something – If you understand that something is triggering or hurting your child, you may be able to offer to work on changing this thing. For example maybe you need to change your pace, or how you talk to or wake up your child in the morning.  Maybe the loudness of your voice is a trigger. Maybe your size. Maybe being a man or a woman. See if you can find something which can support your child in future interactions.

7.     Mentalise – Metacommunicate – (Metacommunication is the ability to be in an experience and to be able to talk about it at the same time. It’s also the ability to be in an experience and to recognize another’s separate experience and empathise with it. Mentalisation is to be able to reflect upon the thoughts and feelings of others – similar). Metacommunicating and reporting on what is happening with your child can help them unpick their experience. You may be able to metacomm that you understand that they felt or feel hurt by you sometimes. You can also metacomm about your own experiences. That you did take something out on them. Or that you understand they experienced that, and also in your heart you don’t want to hurt them, and it maybe saddens you that your voice or style can be experienced as hurtful. 

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