My kids are currently on their Spring Break vacation. I work from home and we are all at home for the holiday. From years of Spring Breaks, I also know that by the end of them, if I don’t parent well, fix up my act and get it right, I have been known to morph into some form of deranged beast!
I get tired from nagging. Tired from entering into the arguments. And tired from not having done enough for myself and/or had enough time to myself.
The 8 words below have become my best friends. They always help preserve my energy, my sanity, allow me to work from home AND enjoy the holidays:
Stay Calm In The Heat Of The Moment
Think back to a time you had a disagreement with one of your children:
- What was it over? ………….. Probably something small and not worth the argument!
- How quickly did you get drawn in? ………………. So fast you were in before you even knew it!
- How did you feel during the argument? ………………… Probably awful!
- How did you feel after it? ………………….. Guilty, exhausted and even worse because you acted just like your child and you are the adult!
Staying calm, not picking up the rope and not entering the battle zone is probably one of the toughest tests we face in our journey as parents.
During times of conflict our brains, very easily and quickly switch into Fight, Flight or Freeze Mode. This is survival mode and during these times the Limbic Brain, responsible for this, takes centre stage and at the same time becomes disconnected or “offline” from our higher order thinking, the executive function part of the brain called the Pre-Frontal Cortex.
The result; two limbic brains going head to head into the argument with no higher order thinking at play. The stakes are high here. This is when tempers flare, emotions escalate and we say things we don’t mean.
Repeatedly entering this “door” with our children, especially teenagers whose brains are undergoing a major re-wiring, is A-B-S-O-L-U-T-E-L-Y exhausting. It drains our energy.
Understanding if from this Brain Science perspective helps me stay calm, tune out and not get drawn in to nearly as many potentially energy-draining situations with my kids, especially my two teenagers.
When my kids become argumentative, say something absolutely ridiculous or have left their “stuff” all over the house, I remind myself of the Brain Science. It helps me take a pause. I then say these words to myself inside my head:
“Do not engage. If you can’t say it nicely, don’t say it. It will only make it worse AND whatever they say, they invariably don’t mean it, so… don’t take it personally either. Tune out.”
There are 5 reasons why we as parents need to be able to stay calm, connected to and “on-line” with our logical, rational, responsive, higher order thinking brain (PFC):
- To ensure someone is operating from their higher order thinking brain thus preventing the onslaught of two Limbic Brains battling it out
- To help your child deal with their emotions because you have kept yours out of it
- To role model and teach this to your child. It is a valuable life skill, especially when dealing with siblings and peers
- To preserve your relationship with your child
- To help you preserve your precious energy
Don’t forget, it is only after the dust settles, when our children calm down and go back “on-line” with their rational, higher order thinking brain that we can hope to discuss the event with any positive effect and learning for them. Lectures in the heat of the moment will fall on deaf ears!
And remember that you also need your space. It is a basic need and not optional. It is especially important during the holidays and we often forget about this. You need to make sure that you take some time each and every day for YOU. You need to do this to re-charge, re-focus and regain your perspective. When we don’t, we start to feel like doormats, mom-machines and there’s no fun in that.
When you stay calm and take some time for yourself, you will be amazed at HOW good you feel not to mention how much less exhausting parenting will be for you!
If like me, you are on holiday and have your children at home with you, practicing this will make for a much more relaxing break with your kids.