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Challenge: Parenting Resolutions

Kids Who Keep Pain Inside & the Best Response When They (Finally) Start Talking

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Call it fate or divine guidance, but I knew I needed to buy a snow globe in preparation for the emotional turmoil my kids were sure to experience as they navigated the challenges of modern teenage life.

I’d been inspired by Dr. Lisa Damour who shared the profound insight she’d received from a school counselor in Texas. One of the counselor’s common practices is to pull out a glitter jar when distressed teens come into her office. Instead of asking what’s wrong or interrogating them, she explains that the jar is a model of their brain at that moment. She points out that their emotions are currently swirling all around, but in time, they will settle, and they’ll be able to gain perspective on the situation.

Dr. Damour now uses this concept in her own work with young people, noting that letting glitter settle is certainly not the solution to all teenage problems, but she has found it to be the best first response. Although it’s helpful for teens themselves to see this model of emotional distress, Damour believes the jar’s greatest gift is the guidance it gives those who are responding to the person struggling, which is: “Be patient and communicate your confidence that emotions almost always rise, swirl and settle all by themselves.” (source)

Because visual reminders, like bracelets and sticky notes with powerful mantras, have been instrumental throughout my Hands Free journey to let go of what doesn’t matter to grasp what really does, I was certain I needed to have a snow globe on display in my home to remind me of my role when my kids experience distress.

It didn’t take long to find the globe that was meant for our family. The water inside was the most beautiful shade of blue, containing sparkling specks that didn’t look like snow—they looked like rain.

“Have you ever seen the rain
Coming down on a sunny day?”

My 13-year-old daughter learned to play this Creedence Clearwater Revival classic a few months back. But in typical Avery style, she made the song her own, turning it into a riveting story that makes you lean in, so you don’t miss a single detail.

The first time Avery played it for me, I began to cry. I’d heard the song a million times throughout my life, but I’d never really HEARD it until Avery interpreted in her unique and soul-stirring way.

“Why do you cry?” Avery asked when she strummed the final note.

“Your voice makes me feel hope,” was all I could manage to put into words. I mean, how does one explain that the way she sings makes you see life’s challenges in a whole new way?

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There was no doubt I needed that “rain globe,” and I immediately found a prominent spot to display it. I’d walk by it many times a day, marveling at the color, which in itself, reminded me to be the calm, steady companion in the emotional storms. I felt confident I’d be ready for the next meltdown that arose…

Except there wasn’t any.

In fact, my normally chatty and cheerful 13-year-old girl was eerily quiet and solemn.

For several days, my gut sensed something was troubling her, but when I inquired, she’d say, “Nothing’s wrong.”

Feeling a bit hopeless, I picked up the rain globe and gave it a vigorous shake. I wished I could shake whatever was troubling my daughter out of her. As I watched the glitter settle, I reminded myself that I often do this – get quiet, deciding if I want to let someone in on what I am going through. I vowed to continue being present and available, loving and patient, nonjudgmental and “easy” to be around by not expecting to gain information before my daughter was ready to share.

One night, Avery asked to be excused from dinner without eating. After giving her some time, I went into her room.

I sat next to her on the bed and inquired about a funny story she mentioned she wanted to tell me earlier that day.

“Oh yeah…” she said keeping her eyes on her Netflix show, “but not right now. I’d like to eat my dinner now.”

When she came back with her plate, I noticed she did not open her computer to resume her show. I took that as a promising sign.

“Can I stay for a bit?” I asked.

She nodded.

I propped myself against a few pillows, feeling quite proud of myself for enduring the nearly unbearable sound of mac and cheese being chewed as I waited for her to talk.

Talk

Talk

Talk

I prayed in my head.

My daughter scooted around a bit on her bed, and I sensed she was considering saying something.

Talk

Talk

Talk

I prayed some more.

And then there was a crack of light when I received a cryptic response to: How are you feeling about things?

The cryptic response was a start.

And slowly, one statement led to another statement, which led to another… and pretty soon, the glitter was swirling all around.

Holding my daughter’s hand, I saw the beautiful contents of a deep feeling heart and recognized that her inherent nature may cause her to feel internal pressure the same way I did (and often still do).

As my daughter continued to talk, I stayed quiet, occasionally nodding and saying, “uh-huh.”

Nothing was off limits.

Nothing was too dramatic.

Nothing was too trivial.

All anguish was welcome.

And about fifteen minutes later, several weeks’ worth of glitter had settled. I sensed she was now open to some guidance and support. I offered these validating statements:

“That must have been hard when…”

“I commend you for problem-solving by….”

“I wonder what might happen if you try…”

“I have a helpful phrase I say to myself when this happens…”

And in the end, I said, “I believe you will get through this.”

“Me too,” she whispered, a newfound strength detected in her voice.

And although this conversation had a positive outcome, I was well aware that it did not guarantee my daughter would come talk to me the next time she was troubled. But she did now know that I can be with her in both the rainstorm and the pre-storm—that ominous period when it’s eerily quiet and you just wish it would rain.

When I kissed my daughter goodnight, I sensed relief in her breathing. I suspected she’d sleep better than she had in a while. As I shut the door, my eyes filled with tears.

Why do you cry? I thought, remembering Avery’s question.

Despite knowing there would be many more storms ahead, I felt hopeful. I lifted up a prayer of gratitude for Lisa Damour and the school counselor with the glitter jar. Through them, both my personal and professional life would be enhanced. Thinking of that, I went to check my email to see if the edits were back on my book.

To my relief, the manuscript was there in my inbox. I scrolled through the 75,000-word document at a rapid pace, scanning for editorial notes in the margin. When I got to the last page of the book, the copy editor had written me a personal note—

“Oh my gosh. I didn’t want it to end. This is my favorite book of the past two years, maybe longer. It’s so good, and impeccably written. There was so little for me to do. Bravo.”

I was stunned. This professional editor who reads countless books a month, hundreds of books a year, said those words about my book. She even went on to say that she began implementing many of my techniques and they have been so fruitful in her relationships.

For the first time since I finished writing it, I did not feel the need to hold my book close to my chest in fear of what people might think when they saw all my glitter. Because in order to write about being a trusted guide for young people navigating the tricky territories of modern life, I had to be vulnerable.

And now, the human being who edited it was using my story to connect to her loved ones in new and beautiful ways.

Suddenly, I realized—I'd given her a snow globe moment.

And maybe some night in the near future, other people would be shutting a bedroom door, giving thanks for my book because it helped them bridge a gap, bringing them closer to someone they love or the life they yearn to live.

Why do I cry? They may wonder as a warm, tingly feeling washes over them.

This is why:

The world will be heavy…
Days will be hard…
Stress will be real…
But if snow globes become lighthouses,
And songs become lifelines,
And we become companions in both the stillness and the upheavals of life,
There is hope.

May it fall like rain
On a sunny day.


Rachel Macy Stafford’s, new book, LIVE LOVE NOW, is now available where all books are sold. In this instant Amazon #1 bestseller, Rachel tackles the biggest challenges facing kids today and equips 21st century parents with tools for 21st century parenting. Using the best strategies and tools she’s collected over the past nine years of her journey, Rachel shows us that simple changes yield positive results. By living love now, our homes can be safe havens, even when the world feels disconnected, divided, and uncertain. Join Rachel at The Hands Free Revolution for more inspiration and encouragement.

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