How many times have you found yourself feeling overwhelmed and totally out of your depths, like “What the hell am I suppose to be doing here!?”
Taking care of kids is hard enough without the pressure that comes with knowing that your relationship with your kids, your day to day interactions, shapes them and the fear that you’re messing it up.
We all want to “get it right”, enjoy the fleeting moments and raise kind and content kids, but am I the only one who doesn’t feel totally equipped for the job?
Life with kids is hard, but it shouldn’t be a complete mystery. You should feel confident, even if you don’t know exactly what to do in every single moment.
There are no hard and fast rules, but from what I’ve learned from my clinical experience in private practice, running workshops and, let’s face it, my personal life raising 4 kids, I can confidently share with you the 4 key skills every parent needs to have to ride the tidal waves of life with kids.
We can’t get is right all of the time, but with the following 4 skills, you’ll be able to regain your calm in the most chaotic moments, feel confident setting boundaries and enjoy building loving relationships with your kids.
1. Pay attention
With all the distractions in our world today, it’s easy to miss crucial moments of connection with your kids. It’s also easy to ignore and deny deeper worries and regrets in your own inner world.
In other words, learning to consciously activate your attention, not only enables you to connect with yourself, but it enables you to connect with your kids. (See #1 and #2).
Here’s what you’re going to need to do:
Put down you phone.
Don’t freak out; it’s just for a moment… That’s right….
Actively decide where to put your attention.
That’s what it feels like to activate the parts of your brain you’ll need to function to connect with yourself and your kids.
Want to take it up a notch?
Notice what happens for you when you disconnect from your phone.
Tune inward and notice the thoughts, feeling and sensations that come up for you when you connect with the present moment.
Do this exercise enough times and you’ll find it easier to bring yourself back to what really matters, even when the chaos of life carries you away.
Wait, is self-awareness even a skill?
Well, being able to tune into, identify and understand yourself (your Self) is definitely a capacity that any parent who wants to build loving relationships with their kids must espouse.
As a client recently said when asked “What kind of parent do you wish you had”, she said, “I wish my mother could have taken care of herself, so that she could have taken care of me.”
When we develop our awareness of ourselves, our ability to acknowledge and tolerate our strong emotions, feel confident in our needs and boundaries, develop our sense of worth and value then we can give our kids the love, care and attention they need to feel secure in themselves, their relationship with us and others and the world at large.
You can’t give your kids everything, but you can at least give them what they need the most… You.
The most important thing to you, above all else, is your kiddos, right? Not to mention, figuring out why they act the way they do!
Like seriously, is it me or is it them?
Look, sometimes it’s simple, your kid is hungry or tired so they’re acting like a little turd. But sometimes it’s something else….
If you can step into their world, with empathy and a willingness to connect, it will help them organize and make sense of what’s going on for them.
Maybe they’re scared, or sad, or pissed off (possibly even with you). Maybe they feel unheard, unvalued or powerless.
Here’s what you’re going to need to do:
When you’re puzzled by your kid, or simply just want to connect in some quality time, step into their mind, imagine what’s it might be like to be them, and ask yourself, “If I were [your kid’s name here] in this moment, what would I be feeling?”
If you can answer that question, great! But even if you can’t, feeling someone taking interest and curiosity in your world, is not only calming but builds trust and self worth… Um, yes please!
Communication is key skill in ALL relationships, but particularly in our relationships with our kids.
Knowing what you need, communicating those needs, setting boundaries (that work!!) are all in the way we communicate.
But even more than what we say, is what we DON’T say.
“The gate to wisdom is silence” (Ethics of the fathers).
Knowing when not to speak, sit with your thoughts and feelings, and just be with what is, and communicate without speaking.
The challenge: Speaking expels emotional energy, which means I don’t have to hold it in and experience it. By not speaking, we are challenged to pay attention (look at that, coming full circle!) to what’s really going on to ultimately respond from a place of connection, not protection (ie. my words protect me from feeling what’s going on, but they are keeping me from feeling calm and connected in the moment, no matter how chaotic, with myself and my kids)
Here’s what you can do:
The next time you feel overwhelmed and irritated, notice what you say to your kids.
Or, even better, if you can catch yourself before you react, ask yourself, “If I wasn’t speaking, what would I be feeling instead?”
Consider the bigger message and motivation behind your words so you can feel more present and confident in your interactions with your kids, especially when setting clear boundaries.