Kids can push us to the brink. We can be just squeaking by, holding it together the best we can, and then something happens that just pushes us over the edge. Previously we talked about what do to when you have lost your cool. This post will address ways you can keep your cool before the explosion even happens.
Take preventative measures
Many of us are living our lives to the brim – it’s like we are walking around with a full cup of coffee, holding it out carefully as we weave through the challenges of our day. But all it takes is one wrong step or a slight bump and it can spill over and make a mess. With parenting, it’s so important to make sure that we are not running around with a full cup. We need to take preventative measures to increase our capacity for stress.
What does that look like? It looks like taking breaks – sometimes before you feel the need for it.
Try scheduling some pressure-release moments into your day (start with three 5 minute breaks, spaced out).
What is pressure-releasing to you is highly individual. You may need to be in nature. You may need some time alone. You may need exercise and movement. You may need the chance to just notice your surroundings – to breathe for a few minutes.
It’s important to now that scrolling through your phone and mindless distractions are not pressure-releasing breaks. These activities not only run the risk of adding to your full cup, they will not do anything to empty it. The allure is that we think these things are calming and regulating, but they are not. It’s just not how our nervous system is designed to work. There are better ways.
Seize the moment
Maybe you have found yourself on the verge of exploding. Maybe you forgot your stress release breaks during the day. Or maybe the thing you are facing with your kids at the moment is exceeding your ability to cope. It’s not too late.
You can remove yourself if you can safely do so (depending on the age of your child and the situation you would be leaving). You may want to try running in place or do jumping jacks to give you nervous system something to because it’s activated. You could try vocalizing as you exhale (hum or make a noise with your throat). You might try saying, “Break time!” into the room and ask that everyone sits down where they are – including you.
Then pause. Unless it is a true emergency, you do not have to have the answers or a solution immediately. Give yourself the freedom to take a moment and collect your thoughts before you intervene. If it’s not an emergency- tell yourself that.
Create a support network
We cannot expect to keep our cool and not lose it with our kids if we are trying to parent in isolation. We all tend to underestimate the importance of community. We have all bought this lie that we need to be independent and resourceful. We may hear or read about parents who are able to do it all and think that is the bar we have to shoot for. This is not realistic and will set you up for failure. You cannot do it all and you should not try.
If you are tapped out, you need connection that is meaningful to you. You need support – maybe a small group of supportive friends that you can text: “I’m about to lose it!” Or maybe you are the type of person who needs avenues to explore your gifts and talents. Only you know what you need. But keep in mind that competency and a sense of purpose in one area of your life can sometimes translate into confidence in other areas.
Try to create a community of supportive people around you. This includes cheerleaders (people who encourage us when we want to give up), respite workers (people who will step in when we just can’t cook another meal or drive to another soccer practice) and menders (people who will help put you back together when you have fallen apart).
If you feel all alone in this parenting journey, try to figure out why. Is your life too full to create space for supportive relationships? What might you cut out to make room? Is it hard for you to be vulnerable? Have you been hurt before by a friend? Do you think you are the only one struggling? Explore with God the reason behind the loneliness and ask Him to provide for you the support that you need to do this job He has called you to. And then be sure to look out for the ways He answers that prayer – it may be different than you expect. God always provides in the wildernesses of our lives. He provided for Elijah, Hagar and Jesus in their time of need. He will provide for you as well.
If you have found yourself losing it with your kids more than you would like, try these tips of prevention, intervention and support. Challenge yourself to dig a bit deeper to explore what might be going on for you. And finally pray. Ask for God to give you what you need and look for Him to answer. He will.