Parenting can be stressful!
As a parent we make choices daily that will impact those closest to us. This applies to children of all ages. We never imagined the powerful impact that pregnancy, loss of sleep, weight gain, weight loss, illness, conflict with significant others, past hurts, or demands that come with being a “grown up” would have on us. We didn’t anticipate that our parenting style at times might be more emotionally reactive then thoughtfully responsive.
Parents face exhaustion, financial stress, loss of focus, anger, disappointment, frustration, confusion, and more. They might catch themselves wondering “what do I do now?” Let’s face it, parenting is stressful and scary if we think too far ahead and don’t learn to manage our fears or worries. There is room for enjoyment in parenting, especially when we learn to manage our own negative emotional states.
These tips are also helpful in promoting any relationship. These are only a few suggestions meant to offer hope and support. You may find that you are already doing some of these.
Tips for reducing stress and promoting positive relationships and connection —
- Forgive yourself.
- Validate that parenting is stressful, worrisome, and fear-inducing.
- Learn strategies for staying out of emotionally reactive responses.
- Change how you view behaviors.
- Do not try to do it alone.
- Take time for yourself.
- Forgive your child/children.
Mistakes are inevitable. Make room in your heart to be gracious with yourself and forgive yourself. This will lead to your ability to be gracious and forgiving with your child/children and others. Our parents made mistakes, we make mistakes, and most likely our children will make mistakes. Forgiveness creates a path toward healing and connecting by softening hearts.
Validate that parenting can be stressful, worrisome, and fear-inducing
Find ways to validate non-judgmentally that these emotions or experiences come with being responsible for caring for others. Being a caregiver or parent is not an easy task. The cause of stress might be different for each of us. Accept that this is one aspect of parenting. Parenting can be tough, you are doing the best you can, and things can get better.
Learn strategies for staying out of emotionally reactive responses
Sometimes it is easier to react based on our emotions. Tones may be harsher, volumes louder, and words said that cannot be taken back. There are strategies that can help reduce emotional reactions. Practicing calming tricks will help.
For parents who struggle with anxiety, this is especially challenging. Anxiety is a powerful and strong experience that can feel consuming to the person in anxiety’s path. It might take additional counseling and additional tools to manage or help reduce these reactive emotional responses. Our ability to remain calm can be influenced by what we eat and drink. Why can it be so difficult to do what we logically know is best for us? (That is a different article to come.)
Everyone can benefit from emotional regulation tools. The first step is noticing you are getting agitated. Don’t judge this emotion, notice it and identify it. Teach yourself to understand what tools help you move out of this emotional space.
- Distraction and self-regulation – Slow down your breathing (Box Breathing explained in Post #1 Embracing Change.) Slow down, if possible. Taking 3 minutes to regain your emotional balance will teach your child valuable skills and keep your own sense of sanity. Move onto the next piece to keep away from thoughts that might promote irritation or other negative emotions.
- Tricks to accomplishing calmer responses – Observe and move into a mind space and out of an emotional state. Observe 5 blue objects (or any color of choice), list them off in your head. Observe 5 smells. Identify 5 sounds. This will act as a “grounding technique” and help you remain calm. Note: This works well when you want to tell off your boss or co-worker, but you want to keep your job and maintain working relationships.
Sounds easy enough, right? Not always the case. It will take practice. Learning to move out of your emotional state and into a calmer mindset will be valuable now and for your future. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) has some great tools for teaching people to get control over their thoughts to manage their emotions. (This requires an article of its own.)
Change how you view behaviors
It can be easy to blame the individual, treating behaviors as if they are deliberate and pre-planned to provoke or irritate. Would you tell others that you are doing the best you can at the moment you are doing it? What if the reality is that children are doing the best they can at the time they are doing it? Isn’t it likely that they are trying as hard as we can?
It can be helpful to change our perception or attitude about what we think is causing challenging or frustrating behaviors. There are many ways to do this. I’d like to peak your curiosity about an approach that teaches skills directly, builds and restores relationships, improves communication, and has the ability to change your parenting response from being frustrated to one of becoming curious. It fosters curiosity to know more about your child and improve your chances of connecting in a meaningful and long-lasting way. This change in your own thinking can help you remain calm and sincerely offer empathy. It can lead to improved communication. Children will talk openly if they do not fear anger or criticism. It increases the chance of understanding a situation and de-personalizing it. It offers opportunities to solve problems together and meet the needs of parents and children.
The philosophy of *Collaborative Problem Solving” is introduced in Ross Greene’s book, The Explosive Child. It introduces the idea that people do well if they can. This includes parents and children. We do not wake up thinking we want to mess up today. Are you willing to accept that your children are not deliberately trying to cause you grief? It is often because they lack skill not will. (For more information, please visit http://www.thinkkids.org/learn/our-collaborative-problem-solving-approach/).
Do not try to do it alone
Take time to establish a support system of people you trust. Find people who can listen, help you find humor in situations, and help you feel less alone. Parenting can sometimes be a lonely job. Ask for help. You will be surprised at how others can enjoy opportunities to support.
Take time for yourself
This is where your supports will come in handy. It is important to do activities that promote self-care and interest you. It can be easier to meet the needs of others if your personal needs are being met. Find ways to treat yourself. Learn to ask for help. This is why we build a support system as discussed above.
Forgive your child/children
This may not be as easy as you would like to believe. The older children get, the more opportunities for them to defy, talk back, challenge, and form values that might challenge the ones we try to teach them along the way. If we practice the first step of forgiving ourselves, hopefully we can find grace for our children and truly forgive them. If your thoughts consist of unforgiveness, your heart and emotions will likely follow. Don’t allow unforgiveness to become a permanent wedge.
Parenting is complex and challenging, driven by the conscious and unconscious in ways we might not even realize. My hope is that this article helps you feel less alone, inspired to try something new, and consider new possibilities. These tips are meant to allow for connection and acknowledge that parenting can be tough. Years of sleepless and thankless days and nights, can take their toll on the best of us. Everyone can benefit from validation and appreciation. I truly believe the more support we have as a parent, the more we will be able to meet our children’s needs without sacrificing our own health and sanity. Thank you for all your hard work. You deserve a big hug and a quiet moment filled with the aroma of your favorite baked good.
~~~ Remember . . . The first step is a great start. ~~~