Has this ever happened to you? You get so caught up in a tough parenting patch that you can’t see your way out? There is no light at the end of the tunnel? It feels like you are going to be in the land of tantrums, or back talk, or disobedience forever? You’re not alone.
The fact that you are so emotionally involved in your parenting role is a good sign- you care! You are a good parent! Cheers and applause for you!
But this being stuck in the emotional side of hard times- that’s not cool. It weighs us down and makes every day parenting tasks even harder. Is there a way out? You betcha.
Mindfulness. Mindfulness is how we can take a step back and see the way out of this hard time with our kids. Mindfulness is how we remember the big picture and refocus back on our relationship with our kids and how to build connection as our way out of the tunnel.
Mindfulness. This word gets all kinds of confusing messages mixed up in it. Here is a definition of mindfulness from the book “Self-Compassion” by Dr. Kristin Neff.
“Mindfulness refers to the clear seeing and nonjudgmental acceptance of what’s occurring in the present moment. The idea is that we need to see things as they are, no more, no less, in order to respond to our current situation in the most compassionate- and therefore effective- manner.”
When we are living this parenting pressure every single day, sometimes we lose sight of the big picture. We get lost in our thoughts about the past- how long this problem behavior has been happening, how challenging it was last time we went through a rough patch, how exhausted you are from all the things that have already happened. OR we get lost in thoughts about the future- is my child going to have problems in school because of this behavior, will they ever make good friends, what kind of adult will they be if they are acting like this right now, I’ll never be relaxed and unstressed as a parent or as a person. The worries list goes on and on and on.
Can we slow down this worry thought train? Consider this example that I’ve seen/ heard/ read from multiple ACT and psychology resources.
Imagine you are watching a movie in a movie theater. It’s gripping and suspenseful. You get so caught up in the story line that your heart is racing and you are gripping the armrests of your seat. Then the man in the row in front of you coughs. Or someone nearby rattles their popcorn bucket loudly. Suddenly you are back in the movie theater- your breathing and heart rate slow down as you notice the people around you. You notice what is going on around you. Your hands relax from their arm rest death grip. You can re-enter the movie plot without your sense of panic or fear for the fictional characters on the screen.
Can you try to notice what’s going on around you to disentangle your emotions from the hard season (or even moment) of parenting you are in the midst of? Can you pause and give your heart rate a chance to lower and recognize where you are and who you are before you react emotionally to your child? Again.
Try this simple sentence: “I notice I am _____.” When you are feeling reactive and all caught up in your emotions or your worries. Notice them.
- I notice I am worried about the future.
- I notice I am having the thought that I have had it up to here.
- I notice that my heart is pounding in my chest.
- I notice that I am remembering all the times I’ve had this exact same discussion/argument/ lecture with my child.
- I notice that _____.
- I notice I am feeling ____.
- I notice I am having the thought that ____.
- I notice I am ______.
Being aware of your thoughts, feelings, or emotions- that’s mindfulness. That noticing could be enough to help you snap out of it for a minute. Take a breath. Give your body time to calm down when you are feeling reactive or heightened. Notice what you are thinking or feeling. You are observing your own self- even just for a minute.
Now that you’ve noticed your feelings, you can respond to them with kindness, with compassion, with empathy. If a good mom friend said to you, “I notice I’m feeling so frustrated that I lost my temper with my child again. That’s not the kind of mom I always imagined I would be.” What would you say to her? Would you verbally beat her up over it? Nope. So don’t do verbally or mentally beat yourself up. Treat yourself with the same compassion you would a good friend.
Try these simple steps to use this tool today in your parenting role:
- Notice when you are feeling heightened or your mind is running away with your thoughts, worries, or fears.
- Either out loud or in your head, finish this sentence, “I notice I am _____.
- Respond to yourself as you would a good friend who said that to you. Compassion is the key!
Try it out. Insert a bit of mindfulness and see it how goes. It only takes a moment, but repetition is key. The more often we can notice and respond with compassion, the better!
And I’m always a link click away. Set up a free consult call to get specific support for you. This parenting job is hard. You don’t have to do it alone.