In the moment, when our blood is beginning to boil, when we are about to dish out a silly punishment that we know we will not follow through on, when we take on the parenting challenge of needing to fix a situation, or when our body starts to tense up in preparation of release, be it through yelling or grabbing our child in a way that is not gentle, we need to have strategies that protect both ourselves and our kids. The big picture or change in perspective is hard, if not impossible, to grab hold of when we are in these moments. Below are some concrete ways to take care of yourself, in the moment, so that you can access the bigger picture, as well as an effective response.
* Remove yourself from the situation and lie down on the ground. You can benefit greatly from taking a time out for yourself. You don’t need to respond in the moment unless there is a serious safety risk. Connecting to something bigger than us, the floor, can be grounding. Take a few deep breaths and respond when you are ready.
* Put on some classical music. An external influence of calming music can help to bring us down from the edge. Play the music during times of the day that you can predict will be challenging. It may have a calming effect on your kids as well.
*Step outside and look up at the sky. The fresh air can be soothing and looking up at the sky reminds us how big the universe is in which our current moment exists. Allow yourself to see the big picture so you can take this moment and put it in perspective.
* Practice saying the phrase, “Wow. He is having a hard time right now. He is not giving me a hard time.” Or “He is having a problem, not being a problem”. So much of our reaction is based on the fact that we take so much of what our children do personally. This phrase immediately keeps our kid and their moment to themselves and allows us to observe. When we observe, we create just enough distance to grab hold of a little compassion so we can help our child through connection.
*Give yourself permission to table a discussion for a later time, a time when you know you can be more present and level headed than when your fears and projections of your future child are derailing you into making threats that you will later regret. Be sure to let your child know when you will return to the conversation. If it is coming up frequently, it is clearly important to them. Assuring them a time for the discussion, confirms for them that their concern is important (to them) and that you are willing to listen. This does not mean that you need to give in.
*Light a candle. The sound of striking a match that creates a glow of light is just enough to break the mental chaos and redirect your mind. Look at the candle and take a breath. For me, lighting a candle can instantaneously transform a hectic atmosphere into a sacred one.
*Wake up 15 minutes earlier to adjust to the morning by yourself. Make yourself a cup of coffee or tea and enjoy it without distractions.
Cindy Kaplan has a Master of Arts degree. She is a family therapist in Newton and is a Parent Coaching Institute (PCI)-certified parent coach; cindykcoaching.com.