Quick Tip

Using Codewords

blowing a bubble

As long as I can recall, in our family we’ve used code-words to ease communication. When my kids were really little, they were visual cues, like reminders to use a fork, or a request to lower the volume. As they grew older, they became verbal cues to help our kids learn to manage the intense emotionality that often comes with ADHD and Anxiety.

Code-words are cues that we all agree upon in our family, words that we use to communicate with each other succinctly. Like a family-whistle peeling through the air in a public space, code-words help us get to the heart of a matter quickly. Better yet, they help us avoid unnecessary meltdowns.

For example, “bubble-gum” is a word we’ve used for about 14 years. It means, “brace yourself, because you might not like what I’m about to tell you.” Broccoli ice-cream” has been around even longer. It means, “someone is losing the ability to cope because s/he’s hungry. Stop everything, now, and get some food!”

Much like crying “uncle” when you’re ready to give up a wrestling match, code-words communicate big concepts in a flash. “Rope” in my family means, “okay, everyone, back off because I’m trying really hard not to lose my cool.” And “don’t poke the bear” (okay, it’s a code-phrase), means, “leave your sister or brother alone because she’s really not in the mood right now to be messed with.”

What triggers in your family could be avoided with a few well-chosen code-words? If you’re not sure, ask your kids. Not only will they probably know, but they’ll likely do a better job of naming them than you. After all – would you ever have come up with broccoli ice-cream?

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