SUNDAY FEATURE: How to Apologize to Your Kids

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Everyone snaps sometimes — it’s what you do after that counts.

By Jessica Grose | The New York Times

A year into working from my bedroom, I thought I had reached an emotional equilibrium where I could tolerate the multiple kid interruptions throughout my day. But last week, my older daughter was assigned a scavenger hunt in remote school. She barged through my door — which I am sorry to report has no lock — four times in one hour, looking for slippers, something red (twice) and a hairbrush. On the fourth interruption, I snapped. “You’ve got to get out of here,” I said, in a voice much harsher than I like to use with my children.

My daughter was upset, and I felt bad that I yelled. But I was also conflicted. Every time she came in, I had politely asked her to look elsewhere in the apartment because I had a deadline to meet. She’s a third-grader, which is old enough to understand and honor that request, and I want to raise her to be empathetic to other people’s needs.

How do I walk that line between showing my children that I have feelings that aren’t always positive, but not letting my irritation erupt, uncontrolled?

The first thing to know is that “all parents snap at their children,” said Dr. Pooja Lakshmin, a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at George Washington University School of Medicine, and doing so from time to time doesn’t make you a good parent or a bad one. It’s just a fact of life. Dr. Lakshmin made clear that she’s not talking about emotional abuse or physical violence, which are never acceptable. Emotional abuse may include ridiculing a child, constant criticism or withholding affection or comfort.

But raising your voice or losing your cool from time to time? That’s inevitable because we are human. “There is this kind of expectation that children should be protected from feeling any negative emotion,” said Jennie Hudson, a professor of clinical psychology at the University of New South Wales in Australia. “But that’s toxic positivity. It’s not normal; it’s not OK. We have a range of emotions that include feeling frustrated, anxious and worried.” It’s also worth noting that the pandemic is exacerbating a lot of stressors on parents, both financial and emotional. And even as things improve, virus-wise, many of us are under additional strain.

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