“As parents become more aware and emotionally healthy, their children reap the rewards and move towards health as well. That means that integrating and cultivating your own brain is one of the most loving and generous gifts you can give your children.”
— Dr. Daniel J. Siegel
It can be easy to feel isolated, confused and even exhausted when seeing a loved one struggling. For parents, this is especially true when it comes to their children.
Dealing with their own range of emotions and daily activities on top of managing those of their children means that parents generally have little time to research, gather resources and find support. When the feelings of overwhelm start to bubble, it’s important to reaffirm to parents that it’s not out of the ordinary for children to struggle in some way, and experiencing difficulties and stress is a normal part of the parenting journey.
Here are six reminders to help parents when feeling frustrated:
Parenting, not perfecting
First, recognize that we’re all just human beings who are learning, growing and doing our best. Let yourself make mistakes and then notice how you treat yourself when you do.
You’re not in this alone
Try reaching out to those in your support network who may also be going through similar experiences. When we can feel connected to others who share our struggles and frustrations, it can help diminish feelings of isolation, in addition to the shame and blame that are frequently part of this territory.
Bring awareness to yourself
Be mindful of your stress levels throughout the day. When do you notice yourself starting to feel dysregulated? What are the physiological signs in your body? For example, does your heart rate speed up or does your breath become more shallow? Do you feel a tightening in your throat or tension in your muscles?
Noticing these clues can help you quickly respond to situations that can lead you to shift into “flight or fight” mode.
Research tells us that focusing on breathing and noticing and accepting any feelings that come up may help reduce stress reactivity in the body. It may seem difficult to find time throughout a busy day, but aim to find little moments to focus on and regulate your breathing.
To help with this, try following this four-part box breathing tool — all it takes is a few minutes or however long you have.
Put yourself in your child’s shoes
We know there’s more to a child’s “bad behavior” than what we might perceive. Rather than getting swept up in emotions, taking an empathetic approach and understanding the world from a child’s perspective while remembering that all behavior has meaning or a purpose may help reduce your stress reactivity.
Wake up tomorrow and know that each day is a new opportunity, and try to show up for your special relationship with fresh eyes, presence and intention.
Our natural reaction is often to be harsh on ourselves as parents or caregivers. Once we start comparing ourselves to other parents, it becomes too easy to get sidetracked by your own self-doubt.
Practicing self-compassion is beneficial to your mental health and well-being. It can make you feel less stressed and anxious, potentially allowing you to better provide for your child’s growth and development. It’s an opportunity to teach your child that it’s acceptable to make errors, forgive yourself and try again next time. This can also support more regulated engagement between parent and child, which may lead to better stress management as a family.