Here we are! We have officially entered what I lovingly (?!) call the 90 days of May. If you have children in school, you know what I’m talking about. There are concerts and performances, last minute projects due, special ceremonies, end of school year events, all in between the regular practices, lessons, games and meetings. And don’t forget Teacher Appreciation Week or Mother’s Day! Or the groceries or the garbage that needs to go out!
It can be very overwhelming. You will have days where you feel like you are a horrible parent. We all do! It’s hard when you are exhausted, stretched to the max and everybody needs something from you.
Remember to BREATHE!
It is likely that you will snap once or twice at your children, at your spouse, even at yourself. That is OK. It happens to all of us. The trick is to not let it happen too often. The ideal, is to get to a point where the exhaustion and snapping happens less and less. When I work with my One on One clients, we create simple systems to get to that point where you can get through the 90 days of May and actually enjoy most of the activities and the chaos.
As parents, we think everyone else expects us to be Super Mom or Super Dad. Sometimes, we put more pressure on ourselves than anyone else. When you have one of those moments when the world seems to be falling apart, take 30 seconds – that’s it, 30 seconds – to stop and BREATHE. For some folks, deep breathing for 30 seconds can work wonders. For the rest of us, or those of us who need to quiet our mind from racing, here’s another option:
In just 30 seconds, pay attention to all 5 of your senses.
– What do you hear right now? Even if it’s a crying, screaming child, remember that the child has lungs healthy enough to let you know something is not right. In the future, those lungs might power a solo in the choir or a musical instrument.
– What do you see? What is something within view that brings you pleasure? It could be a picture of your family or a bird on the tree outside. Look for something that makes you smile.
– What do you smell? If you are changing a diaper (Hey, life happens!) can you think of something that smells nice? A flower, a candle, the honeysuckle bush outside, or hot chocolate?
– What do you taste? If you are not currently eating, can you plan to eat something that makes your taste buds happy today?
– What do you notice about touch? Are you holding a sweet little hand? Do you have fuzzy socks on that you enjoy? Can you pet your dog/cat?
Taking 30 seconds amid the chaos can help ground you.
And what happens when you do snap? Think about what you would say to your child if he/she was feeling exhausted and overwhelmed? Think about what your child was feeling to cause the actions or the behavior that just happened. What would you do? Say these things to yourself. Take care of yourself first. Then you can go apologize to the person you snapped at earlier.
When you are ready to apologize for snapping, you can start by saying “Boy, I was pretty awful at being a parent/spouse earlier.” You can explain why, or you can jump to talking about how you will try to avoid this happening again in the future. By doing so, you are being human. You are being real. You are also teaching your children/spouse that they might have “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad” days (to quote Alexander from a book by Judith Viorst) and that’s OK. It’s what they do with these days, what they learn from them, how they survive and get through them that counts!
It is OK to ask for help. Email me at DrRenee@HelpingParentsParent.com to set up a 20 minute strategy session. I make time in my schedule to offer 5 of these strategy sessions for free each month. This could be your month to get out of overwhelm and back into enjoying parenting.
I anticipate a few “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad” moments, but I wish you many more “happy and healthy” days during the upcoming 90 Days of May!
Focus on the Positive
Last week I wrote about the self-fulfilling prophecy: “You will find what you are looking for.” So why not look for the good?! I invited you to take some time to really stop to notice all the things your child can do and some things about him that make you smile.
This week, I invite you to focus on your parenting through a positive lens. Being a parent is one of the hardest jobs in the world. And I bet, that even though you might not always feel that way, you are doing a pretty good job at parenting.
Stop and think for a moment. What is one thing that you are doing right as a parent? Do your children know that they need to stay buckled in their car seats to be safe? Are your kids going to bed nicely at night? Do they enjoy grocery shopping with you because you keep them engaged?
We are very hard on ourselves as parents. It’s so easy to dwell on the mistakes and regrets. It’s easy to freak out in the moment instead of looking at the bigger picture. Sometimes we need to stop and think if this will actually matter a year, or even a month, from now.
As a parent, it’s also easy to assume that every other parent has their act together. I used to giggle inside when people assumed that because I was so involved and organized outside my home that the inside of my home was just as organized and spotless. To be honest, the organization part isn’t bad, but even the few years that I had a maid didn’t seem to keep my home spotless! I was spending more time playing with my kids than washing baseboards so that made it OK for me.
Think of this as permission for you to spend a few minutes as you are getting dressed in the morning, or ready for bed at night, to pat yourself on the back. Think about some of the things you have done as a parent that have been successful. Be specific and authentic with your thoughts. Some days, that might include a sentence like: “My kids are still alive today!” and that’s OK. The fact that they have made it this far with your help and guidance, is an accomplishment.
Congratulations! Raising a child isn’t easy and you’ve made it this far. There will always be ups and downs, but focusing on the positive will improve your outlook and spill over to make the downs not dip quite so low.
Organizing the Disorganized Child
Your son/daughter has been in elementary or middle school for a while and things should be flowing along smoothly at this point. Right?
Unfortunately, for many kids, this is not the case! Papers from school might, or might not, make it into your child’s backpack. Homework assignments that are done, seem to vanish into thin air between your kitchen table and the classroom.
Just like learning to read, learning to be organized to succeed in school, needs to be taught in small steps and reinforced regularly. When a child first learns to read, he learns what the letters look like and sound like. Then he learns that when you put letters together, you create new sounds and eventually words. Many letters together in groups (words) can make a sentence, a paragraph, or even a story!
Once we’ve taught our children to read, we don’t send them off to fend for themselves. We don’t even let them choose whether or not they want to read. We encourage them to read, and even require it of them in school. Our world constantly provides opportunities to read (street signs, words on food packaging, t-shirts, etc.). And all of this happens at a stage where the brain is open to and able to learn this new skill. Notice I said ‘stage’, not ‘age’ because this does happen at different times for different children, and that is OK!
The executive functioning of the brain, the part that acts as a personal assistant, or office manager, doesn’t fully develop in humans until they are almost 25 years old. Our executive functions enable us to make a list, remember to look at it, and then cross things off as we complete things on that list.
So, GIVE YOUR CHILD A LITTLE BREAK, and GIVE YOURSELF A LITTLE BREAK!
Your child’s brain is still developing!
Your child is really not mentally capable of keeping track of all of the things that he/she needs to keep track of during the school day. Can some kids do it? Sure. But many can’t remember all of the details without a little bit of help.
So what do you do?
Put strategies in place.
Just like reading, your child will get to practice certain skills on a daily basis (i.e., bringing assignments home and bringing completed homework back to school). Many teachers will provide your child with tried and true strategies. One example is having one duel-pocket folder for all papers. One side is marked “HOME” and the other side is marked “SCHOOL.” All papers coming home are put on one side and then all papers going back to school go on the other. While this might seem obvious to you and me, it really isn’t that obvious to your child.
If you would like to learn more simple strategies to help your child succeed in school, please contact me at DrRenee@HelpingParentsParent.com .