As a therapist, I put a lot of pressure on myself to “have all the answers” in parenting. Spoiler alert: I don’t. However, I do have some good resources and tools. If we can practice some of these strategies, we will not only feel more connected to our kids, but we will be giving them (and ourselves) the tools needed to launch when the time comes and still have a good healthy relationship with them. We’ll discuss three strategies this week and another three next week (I’ve gotten feedback that my posts are too long:)
1) Take care of yourself. I usually write about something that is ringing true for me right now. And I need this reminder. When we take care of ourselves, we are more patient. When we are more patient, we set more effective boundaries while still staying connected to our kids. I have fallen behind on my once regimented workout schedule and I have to remember, I don’t work out because I want to be skinny or look good. I work out because I literally feel better all day emotionally and physically. I am a better parent when I get some exercise in, eat at least something that falls into the vegetable category and have some time with my partner and some friends.
2) Connection before boundaries. It is so hard when your toddler is throwing a tantrum because he doesn’t get to have Oreos for dinner to find validation. However, when we can validate the emotional experience AND hold the boundary, we are not parenting with domination and control and upping the chances that they are going to make good choices when they are on their own. There is still a part of me that wants to say “ARE YOU KIDDING ME? You have no idea how good you have it! I’ll show you what real desperation looks like.” However, when we do this, we invalidate their internal world and they then internalize that there is “something wrong with me.” If you can conjure up a calm (and as authentic as possible) “I know it is hard to be disappointed. You really wanted Oreos. They are delicious- aren’t they.” And then offer a hug, you will be able to calm their nervous systems and your own. Are you giving in to letting them have the Oreos? NO! You are still holding the boundary, you are just recognizing that it sucks to not get what we want sometimes. Isn’t that true for all of us?
3) Know your hot buttons. If you know that there are times in the day that you are more likely to lose your crap, it is helpful to prepare for those. You can talk to your children when the waters are calm and get ideas about how to make morning routines, evening routines, homework time, etc better. You can make a game out of it and practice it with younger children (like having a race to get dressed). AND know your physical cues. For me, I feel tension across my shoulders, There is a tightening in my throat right before I am going to lose it, and my heartbeats faster. When I feel these sensations, I take a break, go outside and get some fresh air, take a drink of water and take a deep breath.
May you have many parenting wins fellow badasses!