Turn Your Stress into Positive Modeling

Seriously, has parenting ever been more stressful than it has been the past 5 months? And it continues as many of you are stressed over continued remote learning, whether to send your kids back to school or not (if you even have a choice), worry that your children are falling behind, frustration over no uninterrupted time to do your work, and fear that you are failing as a parent from overwhelm.

I often talk about the importance of Being instead of Doing. Your children want you—but not the nagging, yelling, telling them what to do you. They want to simply be with you. It may look like they demand everything and act out just “to get your attention”. But these are the ways a young child knows how to ask for you.

Being Time is more important than ever these days. Yeah, I know, you don’t have time nor one more ounce of energy for it. Frankly you probably just want to stuff your kids in a closet for a couple hours/days while you chill. But I’m not suggesting that you do more. I’m suggesting that you be more. Being time means being more true to yourself which can actually fill you up and help you feel less stressed.

This is the time to reinvent how to connect with your kids. Connection can come even at the hardest times—when it is most important. To be, you must leave the future and the past to be in the present. Stay out of your expectations and your fears. Your presence is what gives your child a sense of security.

When your eyes are calm, they provide mirrors for your child to see herself as she is. When your eyes are stormy, she can’t see herself clearly—only the storm.

Keep in mind that if scientists don’t have all the answers, you certainly don’t need to. You are still parenting, true. But you have no track record for parenting in these weird times. Stop trying to figure it out and fix things to ensure your child’s best future. Your child always does best when he feels connected to you.

Here are some simple ways of Being:

  • Say to your kids, “That’s a great question and I don’t have the answer.” Don’t think you should have answers.
  • Simply watch. When you’re exhausted try sitting and watching your kids play or even fight. Watch and pay attention to their interest, their passions, even when it’s anger over not getting what they want. If they come running to you, don’t say anything. Just hold them, see them. If they are fighting over who gets your lap, can you just watch how they figure it out (unless you’re getting whacked in the process, in which case you can say, “I will stay here as long as I don’t get hurt.”)
  • When you are feeling stressed to the max, drop down on the floor or a chair, let yourself cry if that’s what’s up. Simply say, “This is so hard. I don’t know what to do to make it better right now.” When you own your upset and don’t blame it on your kids’ noise or fighting or demanding, they can hear and see you. You might just get a hug. They need us to be strong and they need us to be soft and vulnerable, too. 
  • When your child is upset, try, “Would you like a hug?”
  • When you are upset, try, “Could I have a hug? I really need one right now.”
  • Give your kids your time. Say, “I have 15 minutes and I want to spend it with you. What would you like us to do?” Then just follow your child’s lead. Use it as a mindfulness practice. Stay out of the future worrying about what their selfishness will lead to. Let go of expectations of what they should be like. As with meditation, let everything else go but following your child’s lead—just for now.
  • Ask regularly, “How ya doin?”
  • Talk with your kids about various feelings—happy, angry, frustrated, resentful, fed up, etc. and what color matches each feeling for all of you. Make a color chart of all colors mentioned. Make stickies for each person so you can move yourselves around on the color chart.

Your kids know when you are authentic and when you are stifling feelings to “put on a good face”. They don’t need that. They need your emotional authenticity. Don’t worry about scaring them with your upset. Unless you are freaking out to the extent you require hospitalization, showing your true feelings will give them permission to show theirs and will help them see that you are like them—not someone on a pedestal to come crashing down when they reach the teens.

It’s so important to allow our children to become who they are meant to be. In order to do that, you as parent need to support, validate and encourage your child from the beginning to be who they are rather than who you think they should be which may mean inconvenience and frustration for you. Arguments, voicing frustrations, demands, and anger are all part of the game. Are you ready for that? Are you ready to allow your children to be who they are while at the same time taking care of you?