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!
I am a strong believer in the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy:
“You will find what you are looking for.”
So why not look for the good?! Focusing on the positive is the foundation of all the work I do with parents.
We get so caught up in our day-to-day activities that we often forget to look at all the great things that are happening around us. Unfortunately, our brains are wired to notice the negative. It is simply easier to focus on what is going wrong. Taking note of the negative does help prevent mistakes from happening again, but it can be a real downer! Rather than dwelling on what could be better or what you should be doing, why don’t you pay attention to the things that are already going well.
Your mind is an amazing entity. Look for the good that is happening, think positive thoughts and you can transform your life.
I know, you’re thinking, “Sounds great Dr. Renee, but HOW can I do this?” The fact that you are interested in learning more, indicates to me that you are already on the right path.
Start by looking for the good in your child. I know this is hard when you are exhausted and stretched beyond anything you ever imagined parenting to be. But I promise you, it is worth it.
Take a few moments as you get dressed in the morning, or ready for bed at night, and think about your child. What are some of his positive qualities, traits, and abilities? If you are feeling a little more ambitious, pick an entire day to try to look for positive things your child says or does.
Positive things can be something as simple as ‘sitting in a chair for an entire meal.’ Even if he’s strapped in a high chair, your child is sitting and not climbing/fussing to get out. Maybe your daughter smiled at you this morning. Maybe you took a few seconds to notice, and really enjoy, the sweet, little hand holding yours as you walked to the car. What about how he played with his friend and shared his toys? Or how she called a friend who was feeling lonely or looked sad at school? Open your eyes and look for the positive.
I am often asked, “Should I tell my child about all of these positive things I am seeing?” Then almost immediately, there will typically be one of two follow-up questions: “Will this boost his self-esteem?” or, “Won’t all that complimenting go to her head?”
It is OK to comment and praise occasionally, especially if you can point out a specific behavior/action and you are being authentic. However, just spouting off compliments all day could backfire. Your child might come to expect your input on everything in life (= not be able to think for himself). Or she might begin to tune you out well before she hits the pre-teen years!
Focusing on the positive is more for YOU than for your child. Trust me, your child will benefit because your upbeat mood will have a ripple effect. Focusing on the positive is really more about a mind shift for you. It will help you find ways to be happier and feel a purpose as you go through the everyday tasks and necessities in life.
Stay tuned for next week’s blog. It’s Part Two of Focus on the Positive and it’s going to help you even more with your ability to parent.
“Get Some Sleep” is so much easier said than done! I can’t tell you how many times people told me to “sleep while your baby is sleeping,” when my first child was born. Sounds good in theory, but in real life, my daughter only took 2- 3 twenty minute naps a day! On a good day.
I hate to say it – and those of you who know me personally will know that this is hard for me to say, but I will: Get Some Sleep! You know how tired and cranky children can be when they are tired or hungry? Well, the same thing can happen to sleep-deprived parents. And let’s face it, the first few years with a new child provide many sleep deprived moments. Some days you feel like you are walking around in a fog just trying to keep your eyes open and make sure no one gets hurt.
Reading about the benefits of sleep have been eye- opening to me (no pun intended)! I used to be able to function quite well on 4-5 hours of solid sleep or 6-7 hours of interrupted sleep. I know that I am better able to handle life’s challenges when I am “more rested.” However, the specific health benefits I’ve learned about over the years have been enough to scare me into trying harder to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night. In fact, one year, my New Year’s resolution was to get in bed 15 minutes earlier every two months (starting at 11:45 in January aiming for 10:30 by December).
Based on research done by the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, NOT getting enough sleep can:
Decrease one’s immune system
Impair cognitive functioning and memory
Affect mood, motivation, judgement and even our perception of events.
In fact, a study at the University of Rochester Medical Center, led by Dr. Maiken Nedergaardfound, found that sleeping actually flushes waste from the brain, helping one to think more clearly during the day.
Now, I’m not living in some fantasy world, although some days I imagine it would be nice. Getting a solid night’s sleep with an infant or young child in the house is challenging. Sleeping during the day when your child is napping can be even more challenging when you want to eat, go to the bathroom, do some work, clean the kitchen, do the laundry, catch up on bills, and maybe even throw a shower in there, too. But challenge yourself to make sleep a priority. You don’t even need to be creative about it. Hire a babysitter or a mother’s helper to sit with your child for a few hours so you can nap. Exchange babysitting days with another mom of a young child and use it as a play date for the children when they are at your house and a ‘nap date’ when the children are at her house.
The better rested you are, the better parent you can be, not to mention the healthier you will be and the longer you will live to parent your children. So please, do yourself and your children a favor and try to get some sleep.
When was the last time you played as a family? Or just “hung out” together? Sometimes you need to call a Time Out of your hectic schedule, ignore your To-Do List and just take time to play. The laundry and the dirt in the corner of the bathroom can wait until tomorrow. When you take a break from the rat race, you give your family time to get to know and enjoy each other.
While time away can be a vacation or a pre-made adventure (amusement park, mini-golf, roller skating), it can also be simple and cheap. Here are the top 5 favorite Family Fun Escapes contributed by some of the families with whom I have worked:
Have a Picnic in the Den. Instead of sitting at the dinner table, lay a table cloth on the floor and eat picnic foods. You can play music that reminds you of summer and have popsicles or ice cream in cones for dessert!
Go on a Night Walk. One night, when no one has a super busy schedule the next day, surprise your kids after PJs and teeth brushing and go outside for a walk. Listen to the night sounds, look at the night stars or the snow if it’s falling. What does the night smell like? Is it the same as during the day or does it smell more clear and fresh?
Go on a Hike. Explore your local parks and paths. Bring plenty of water, a few snacks, and most importantly a camera to save your family memories!
Have a Family Game Night. Depending on how much time you have, each family member can choose a game to play or you can write down everyone’s ideas and pick one out of a hat. Serve a special snack (popcorn or fruit kabobs).
Have Ice Cream for Breakfast! You might have heard me mention this as a special surprise to get kids out the door on time or as a reward for getting all of their “To Do’s” done, however, if you haven’t done this in a while (or ever), serve ice cream for breakfast for a fun morning. You can balance it out with fruit toppings, or go all out and enjoy chocolate syrup and sprinkles. It’s such a fun way to start the day off with smiles and giggles, give it a try!