Sandra Dodd, and quoting Meredith Novak after a bit:

Distraction. I have recommended it a few dozen times over that many years, and every single time, I think, someone has self-righteously gone on about how disrespectful it is to distract a child who is experiencing difficulty, or an emotion, and that the only RIGHT thing to do is to go into that need, fear, sorrow, frustration with that child and let him express it as much as he needs to, and on and on.

Every single time I have thought "Bullshit." But I didn't always say that.

Today I feel like saying it. If someone is flipping out, distraction can be a blessing. If the problem is insurmountable, they will get right back to it. If the problem was that the problem itself was creating feedback and a small thing had turned into a roar, distraction can break the tension and let them breathe and relax, or even better—to laugh and to slump until some adrenaline can pass.

The reason I'm telling this sudden story is that in another topic Meredith wrote:
"I've been listening to a podcast called The Hilarious World of Depression which is all interviews with comics who have various kinds of depression. In one episode (I don't recall which) they talk about distraction, and how it's actually a helpful strategy for a lot of people with anxiety, depression, and the like. That was nice to hear. There's a lot of pressure on people to journal and talk and ruminate and Not try to be distracted, but it turns out for some people distraction is a good thing."

More of that, at facebook

Cass Kotrba:

Deflect rising tension before it escalates. The value of a well-timed distraction can not be overstated. If you feel the tension rising and you are intimately knowledgeable about the two people involved in the potential dispute then you have a lot of power to provide just the right distraction. In my home, I have used adorable pets as a distraction many many times. “Aww, look at how cute Rubin is right now” has broken the tension so many times! Turning attention away from the stressful thing and focusing on something that makes you feel love is such a simple way to break that tension for a moment. Then quickly follow that up with something like “who’s ready for lunch?”

(more at "When Siblings Fight")

Schuyler Waynforth:
Simon started playing Chibi-Robo; a gamecube game about a little robot that cleans and tidies the Sanderson’s house and manages to release them from marital and economic distress in the process. It’s really fun. Simon’s been playing it for the past two days. And Linnaea helped with some of it last night. And today she wanted to help more, so there was some arguing over how many millions of years it would be until she got her turn. And I distracted her with food and the kitten and then the mail came. And in the post was the Hercules Season Two that I’d ordered via the U.S. (the UK didn’t release it) 10 days ago. And the settled in to watch Kevin Sorbo as Hercules and Bruce Campbell as the King of Thieves.

from Schuyler's Better-than-Typical Day

Joyce Fetteroll:

Distraction is a good thing when they're headed in a meltdown direction.

Being mindful so their needs can be met before they get to meltdown is even better.

more at Mindful Parenting and unschooling

Schuyler Waynforth, on adults using distraction on themselves:

Often if I'm stuck not being able to see the positive in something, I need to quit looking at it. I need to look at other things. I need to find something to move forward to instead of whirling and twirling around the angsty thing. Make the angry thing small and insignificant, turn away from it, look for bright and shiny things to distract you, look at tiny things that give you pleasure, look at large things that you didn't appreciate fully the first time around. Turning toward joy will definitely make it harder to feel stymied in the negative.

Seeing and avoiding NEGATIVITY

Joyce Fetteroll on babies and toddlers just learning "mine":

She isn't old enough to understand the toy isn't hers. She isn't old enough to understand she'll hurt someone if she seizes possession of something someone else is playing with. From her current understanding of the world it belongs to her and she'll react the same way an adult would if someone took something that belongs to her. That's why distracting them with something else works better at that age than reasoning with them

Piaget's Stages of Cognitive Development

Jenny Cyphers:

I remember one time we were walking with an adult friend and Margaux was tired of walking, so I pointed out all the cool stuff on the way, and we used that as a distraction, so it's definitely a benefit to be able to stop and smell the roses

Young Children

Sandra Dodd of unschooling park days:

If an activity arose among children that one child was feeling left out of, one of the moms would distract him with something else fun so that he wasn't standing there feeling sad or frustrated. Because peace and happiness were our goals, rather than striving for perfection (a phrase I heard many times in school), there was less jealousy and sorrow.

more at Unschooling a Teenager (interview for German magazine)

Robyn Coburn:

Jayn suffers from anxiety now and then. She likes distraction as her coping tool. It is only in hindsight that she and I can see clues of anxiety being there in her youth. Even then it was distraction that helped her, and play acting.

Anxiety (and other issues), nearly halfway down

Pam Sorooshian:

We can't always fix everything for our kids or save them from every hurt. It can be a delicate balancing act—when should we intervene, when should we stay out of the way? Empathy goes a long long way and may often be all your child needs or wants. Be available to offer more, but let your child be your guide. Maybe your child wants guidance, ideas, support, or intervention. Maybe not. Sometimes the best thing you can offer is distraction.

—Pam Sorooshian

How to Be a Good Unschooler

Sandra Dodd:

[One day] I played with a stranger's five-year-old granddaughter in a waiting room. It helped the child, and her grandmother, it gave me something good to do while I waited, and she was quieter so it might have helped those in the room who weren't feeling well. The little girl was one of those, so the distraction helped her forget she was at a clinic. I gave her tissues and told her mine were softer than those in the box on the table. Her grandmother thanked me.

Compassion, for a minute



Being your Child's Partner