Got your back-to-school routines rolling smoothly yet? Are you and your kids flowing through the days with a nice, calm, even enjoyable rhythm? If so, FANTASTIC! Enjoy the blessings of a peaceful and productive time for you and your child.
If, however, you’re starting to see signs of strain or struggle, then consider these solutions to the most common sources of parenting stress.
1. Zoom out to look at the big picture and realize you have all the time you need for what really matters in life! It’s not that you don’t have the time or that you can’t find the time. It’s realizing you are always making choices about your time – most often without any conscious awareness. When you regain perspective about what’s most important to you, and accept responsibility for making conscious choices, a whole new world opens up.
2. Recharge your body and soul every day. Doesn’t matter if it’s for 10 minutes or 20 or 30. Schedule an appointment with yourself ever day and keep it. (If you had cancer, and you had to go in for a half-hour treatment every day, could you? Of course you could, and would!) So, give yourself a half-hour each day to revitalize yourself.
How? By being fully present and engaged with whatever brings you joy and energy. A walk, a run, a swim, a dance. Stretching, meditating, breathing, praying. Cuddling, chatting, massaging, laughing. Reading, writing, drawing, sculpting. Gardening, baking, building, creating. Or resting. Doing nothing. Really. Just being. Present. Here. Now.
3. Communicate to your children (and others) with an open mind and open heart. Open your ears and eyes when your child speaks – be fully present to hear what they’re saying and see what they’re feeling. As Covey says, “seek first to understand, then to be understood.”
When you speak, say what you mean, mean what you say, and don’t say it meanly!
4. Hang out! Spend time with your kids each day in some familiar routines, consciously appreciating that you have this time together – whether it’s driving somewhere or doing homework or cooking, eating, or cleaning up after dinner. Don’t take these routines for granted, and don’t focus on rushing through them to get to the next item. Be present. Be aware that this time, this activity, is a gift, a golden opportunity to bond with your children. Take a deep breath. It can be fun, or it can be frustrating. Choose to make it fun (even if it’s not neat enough or quick enough or perfect enough).
5. To minimize parent-child power struggles, set clear, realistic expectations for your child, and communicate these calmly to your child. If your child is struggling to meet expectations, first REFLECT the child’s feelings, then REDIRECT the child’s behavior. Empathize with your child’s underlying feelings, while encouraging them to make good behaviour choices.
6. Use consequences thoughtfully to motivate your child and guide him in making more positive behavior choices. Be sure the feedback you provide is meaningful for your child and doable for you (you’re ready, willing, and able to deliver the consequences!). Use as little external reinforcement as posssible, but as much as you need, to achieve success.
7. Catch yourself (or your kids) being “out of sorts” and respond with mindful moments throughout your day. STOP. BREATHE. SMILE. CHOOSE. When you realize you’re stressed-out or mindlessly multi-tasking or reflexively reacting to the world – Stop! Breathe. Smile. And choose to reflectively respond instead. In that still, quiet moment of awareness, consider “What Would Love Do?” And do it.
Know that these solutions are possible for every one of us. And know that they are vital to every child we may live or work with.
Without these sane solutions to the stressors of modern day life, our kids will keep feeling buffeted about by the stormy seas of our chaotic lives. Without peaceful caregivers, our children stand little chance of finding their own peace at home, at school, or within themselves.
So give yourself the gift of conscious choice. Know that you can make mindful, heartfelt choices for your well-being and your child’s well-being. Use these solutions as guidelines to a happier, healthier school year.
P.S. And if you’d like my guidance, as well as peer support, to help you implement such solutions, join our upcoming “Timechoicing Solutions” parenting course, beginning this Thursday evening, September 20th.