It is normal to feel overwhelmed and stressed when parenting. But it’s important to learn how to soothe your fight or flight response so that you can parent in a more patient manner. We have created a 5-day parenting challenge for you to learn how to become a more calm and patient parent. Remembering how you respond to your child, will determine how they learn to regulate their emotions.
Day 1: Self Care for yourself
We tend to be the most patient parents when we spend time taking care of ourselves. Whereas in comparison one is exhausted they are more likely to snap at their children or yell at them. That’s why today is a self-care day. The self-care that you choose to do for yourself will depend on what relaxes you. We have provided plenty of ideas below. Do whatever you think will be the most helpful. But make sure that you spend a minimum of 15 minutes doing a self-care activity.
Doing this self-care activity may require that you tell your spouse that you need some time to relax. It may mean that you have to ask your family for help. Or it may mean that you plop your children down in front of the tv for half an hour while you do something for yourself.
You’ll be glad you took this special time for yourself, once you start the 30-day Parenting challenge!
List of self care ideas
- Go and get a massage. Or use a massage roller at home.
- Take a bubble bath, while reading a good book
- Just lay down and watch tv.
- Journal for half an hour
- Put on music and dance
- List 5 things you are grateful for.
- Go for a walk
- Do yoga, or some other fitness activity
- Enjoy a cup of tea, or coffee while sitting outside.
Day 2 – Practice patience with your child today
Practice patience with your child. Remember that no one is perfect and everyone has off days. Your child is no different.
Today’s practice is being patient with your child. Follow the following step by step instructions:
- If you notice you are starting to get upset or stressed take 3 deep breaths. Repeat a calming mantra to yourself, like, “It’s going to be okay. I am doing the best I can right now. And my children are as well.”
- If you snap at your child, don’t get angry at yourself. But try and stop yourself from getting angrier. Just notice that you got angry, take a deep breath and move on. If you find yourself blaming yourself for your actions, simply repeat “I am being the best parent i can be, and my child is being the best child”
- If you feel yourself getting overwhelmed, take 5 minutes for yourself. Meditate, breathe or have a cup of coffee.
- Make a note of situations where you got triggered throughout the day. Do you notice any similarities. Understanding what triggers you is the first step to
When we practice patience and mindfulness, we give ourselves the gift of time. We get to slow down and take our time with things so we can process them properly and move on from them in a healthy way. When you are mindful of your surroundings, when you focus fully on what is present right in front of you, when you are concentrating on the task at hand, when you are practicing patience with your child – it can really give you a break from thinking about other things in your life.
Day 3 – Recognize your triggers
Becoming a more mindful and peaceful parent requires recognizing when we are triggered.
A trigger is anything that happens, that causes us to experience an emotionally intense reaction. When we are triggered an old wound or feeling from our past is usually being activated.
So if you feel like no one ever listens to you, your children not listening to you may activate intense feelings. Oftentimes we are most triggered by our children because they remind us of something that we don’t like about ourselves.
To identify your parenting triggers do the following:
- Observe yourself throughout the day. Work on paying attention to what you are feeling, and thinking throughout the day. Be particularly mindful of your inner feelings when you are with your children.
- If you’re paying attention to how you’re feeling, you’re more likely to notice when you are triggered, or have an intense emotional reaction (even if you don’t act on it.
- If you suddenly start to feel frustrated, yell, or need to be alone, that is usually a sign you are triggered. Pay attention to what happened that made you feel triggered, and write it down if you can.
- If you aren’t triggered by anything today that’s alright. Instead sit down, and think about when you feel most frustrated, or overwhelmed while taking care of your children.
The purpose for today is simply to acknowledge and accept your triggers. If you notice that you are triggered by something your parents did, you can try breathing to calm yourself down. But don’t worry if it doesn’t work. It’ll take time. For now, just try and notice how you feel.
Here are the things you should be paying attention to & write down:
- Any thoughts you had when you were triggered
- How your body felt when you were triggered
- How you reacted, or how you normally react. Do you yell? Walk away? or maybe you just freeze.
Types of triggers that you might experience:
- Your child wasn’t listening to you, so you got angry
- Your child’s crying triggered you.
- You were getting late to an event, and that frustrated you.
- Sibling fighting frustrated you,
- The told you they hated you, or said something else hurtful
- They had an accident or spilled something.
Example 1 of how your notes might look
- Trigger: Child had a tantrum
- Thoughts: I can’t deal with this. He’s always throwing tantrums. I just need him to stop. Other kids don’t do this. ughhh.
- Body reaction: Tightened up. Started breathing fast.
- Reaction/Coping mechanism: Felt overwhelmed, so withdrew by looking at my phone
Example 2 of how your notes might look
- Trigger: Child refused to listen to me. T
- Thoughts: She doesn’t every listen to me. She treats me like i’m not important, and makes me feel so disrespected. Who does she think she is?
- Body reaction: brain stopped working. heart started beating faster.
- Reaction/Coping mechanism: started yelling at your child. Threatened him with taking all his toys away.
Day 4: Understand what happens when you are triggered
You have learned how to recognize and identify your triggers. Today you will learn what happens when your body is triggered, and understand your current individual coping style.
When we feel triggered or threatened, our sympathetic nervous system is activated. This causes the release of natural chemicals such as adrenaline, cortisol, and dopamine. This prepares us to react to any dangers quickly- which was essential for our ancestors because of the immediate dangers they faced.
So even though we are not in immediate danger when we are with our children, our triggers make us believe that we are. Your brain exaggerates the danger in front of you, resulting in an extreme emotional reaction.
After being triggered, our body instinctually does one of 3 things – fight, flight, or freeze. Understanding how you normally react when parenting triggers you will help you control your instinctual reactions, with more peaceful parenting.
- Fight: Parents who’s fighting mode is triggered, are more likely to react by yelling, scolding and threatening. When they feel triggered by their child’s actions, they feel the only way to solve the problem is by taking immediate action.
- Flight: Parents who react to danger by fleeing, tend to use withdrawal coping mechanisms. They may distract themselves by using their cell phone or doing housework. Anything that prevents them from having to actually deal with their triggers. Oftentimes we think flight is healthier then fight – because at least we’re not yelling at our child. In reality however, that simply teaches our children to not cope with difficult emotions.
- Freeze: Parent’s who freeze , often alternate with their reactions. When they are triggered, they are confused about how they should react. They feel like deers caught in the headlights. They can not think clearly, and don’t know how to react, so they don’t do anything. This may eventually show up as a flight mechanism, but might also result in a parent having a disorganized parenting method.
Today’s activity is to recognize what your parenting method is. Recognizing your parenting method, will make it easier for you to develop healthy coping mechanisms.
Pay attention to how you react to being triggered, particularly with your children.
- Do you normally react by walking away, or by yelling at your child? If you walk away you are in fight mode., If you yell, you are probably in flight mode. If you have anxiety, and don’t do anything, you are probably in freeze mode.
- How often do you use your phone, or other distractions to avoid having a meltdown? Parents who use distractions to cope with their emotional reaction, are more likely to be in flee/flight mode.
- Do you immediately say something to your child when you are upset at them? Maybe something you later regret. If yes then you are in fight mode.
- Do you have panic attacks because you don’t know how to respond or because you are a bad mom? Then you may be in freeze mode.
- Do you alternate between yelling, and withdrawing, because you don’t know what to do? Then you are in freeze mode.
You may alternate between all 3 responses, but most people normally have a go-to response for the way they parent. That’s why you’ll see some parents who are more likely to yell and others who are more likely to do absolutely nothing.
Day 5: Soothing your fight or flight response
Today’s challenge will focus on learning how to calm your fight or flight response so that you respond in a calmer manner. Remembering how you respond to your child, will determine how they learn to regulate their emotions.
We discussed how when you are triggered, your brain activates the sympathetic nervous system so that you can react faster. This was because our ancestors needed to react quickly to threats in their environment in order to survive.
In the modern world, we aren’t faced with the same threats as our ancestors were. But our brain has evolved to react in certain ways. It is our job to teach it how to pause, and react in a more self-controlled manner.
Here’s how you teach your brain to pause before reacting:
- Observe yourself so that you are more conscious of your triggers
- Become aware of how you react to difficult situations.
- Catch yourself as soon as you are triggered, but before you react.
- Use soothing mechanisms to deactivate the sympathetic nervous system, so that you are able to stay calm.
- Calmly, but in a firm tone, explain to your child why you are upset, and what behavior they need to change.
Here are some soothing mechanisms you can use to deactivate the sympathetic nervous system:
- Breath in for 4 counts, hold it for 2 counts, and breathe out slowly for 6 count. Repeat this until you feel more calm. This stimulates your vagal nerve which works to regulate your heart rate.
- Take a short walk around the house or outside if that is an option. Even just getting up and moving around will help you feel more centered. It’s okay to tell your child that you need 5 minutes for yourself.
- Sit in a dark room, or sit outside in the shade for 10 minutes. Allow yourself to tune into your body and get present with where you are, without allowing the momentum of your thoughts to carry you away.
- Hold up both hands in front of your face, palms facing outwards. Focus your attention on the middle of your palms. Do this for a minute or two, while focusing on your breath. This increases alpha brain waves, which you can think of as being more relaxed and meditative.
- The 5-4-3-2-1 technique: Take 5 breaths, think of 4 things you can see, 3 things you can feel, 2 things you can hear, and 1 thing you can smell. This will help bring you back to the moment.