Tuesday, July 24, 2007

How to Stay Calm: Special Tips for Parents

(This email was forwarded to me by Leslie D, let's learn together. )

Releasing our anger in the wrong ways can lead to emotional and physical scars on our kids. Find out how to manage your anger, even when you're really stressed out.

My beloved car had just blown its engine, pregnancy was making me crazy, and we had no money in our pockets (or anywhere else). When I slammed our front door, I knocked the only plant I had managed to keep alive all season off the windowsill. Just as the pottery hit the floor and cracked, so did I. I lay face down in black potting soil and pottery shards and let my Labrador lick the tears off my dirty face.

That was just before the birth of our first child. Since then, there have been countless times when I've wanted to curl up on the carpet and scream, but the ever-watching kids have made that a luxury I can no longer afford.

It's more difficult now, too. One of the biggest surprises of parenthood is the absolute anger we can feel in no time - and with very little provocation. Start with a sleep-deprived parent, throw in a troubled teenager, a whining child, or a colicky newborn, and even the coolest cats can lose their minds.

Releasing our anger in the wrong ways can lead to emotional and physical scars on our kids. When infants are shaken, even for one heated moment, they can die. And it takes only a moment to harm their little souls.

As they watch us, these young ones are paying particular attention to the way we handle difficult situations. And what we model for them will, in large part, determine their success at controlling their own tempers as they grow up.

So, even in the face of total exasperation, we must stay calm. For a long time, the advice has been to simply go away for a moment and count to ten, but, as all parents know, sometimes that's not so easy. A small child may be frightened when mommy or daddy leaves to take a time-out. Sometimes counting to ten just doesn't do it, and there's no time to count to 100.

So here are a few more tips, compiled just for parents, to help you deal with anger and stay calm with your kids.


The best time to work on staying cool is before you're hot.

*Declare a zero-tolerance policy on the out-of-control temper.* You must decide, for yourself, that behaving this way is simply not okay. Remind yourself that it is possible to manage your emotions. Think back to times when you were successful at controlling your anger. Perhaps you bit your tongue rather than hollering at the boss. Or you were just about to let it fly at your husband when your in-laws called and suddenly you couldn't believe the sweetness of your own voice. We all have the power to suddenly change our mood.

*Be prepared.* Lots of things can go wrong each day; be ready for them. For example, if you've got babies, pack a bag with at least one extra shirt for everyone, a complete outfit for each toddler, and several for the infants. Stow them in the back of the car with extra diapers and plenty of baby wipes.

*Is there anything specific that triggers your anger?* Keep a journal for those times when you feel like you're ready to fly off the handle. Do you notice any patterns--time of day, hunger level, lack of exercise, a full calendar? Even noise from a TV or radio can contribute to a feeling of over-stimulation, which can set off an emotional explosion. Create a nurturing environment for yourself.

*Take care of yourself.* We're more likely to react to a situation - rather than to simply act - when we haven't gotten enough sleep or we haven't been eating right. Start your day with a light breakfast that includes carbohydrates and protein. Then continue to eat for energy throughout the day. More Energy for Moms (http://www.momscape.com/energy ) features information on how to control your moods with food.

*Daily exercise* provides a physical release to help you control anxiety and aggression throughout the day. A half-hour of kickboxing can release tension you didn't even know you had.

*A regular routine of prayer and meditation* can calm a chaotic mind. Sit quietly for at least 15 minutes a day. Practice a few yoga stretches when things get tense.

*Decide how you'll deal with certain situations before they arise.* What makes you want to blow your top? Whether it's toddler temper tantrums or the preschooler's occasional whine, determine how you will handle those things beforehand - while you're calm.

*Understand your child.* Read up on child development and put yourself in their shoes. Ask yourself: "What's it like to be two and not have the skills to express what you want?" "What's it like for a newborn who finds herself with a gut-wrenching bellyful of gas and doesn't understand why it hurts?" Kids act the way they do for a reason. Often, there's a developmental milestone associated with a child's behavior. Understanding the reasons behind our kids' actions can go a long way in helping us develop a sense of empathy, compassion and, ultimately, tolerance.


*Take a few deep breaths.* Diaphragmatic breathing helps reduce stress. This will also give you a time-out, long enough to make a rational assessment of the situation and to help you regain a sense of control.

*Visualize* yourself as the cool, calm, person you strive to be. Whom do you know who embodies these traits? Imagine this person's reaction to the situation.

*Stop. Think. Then speak.* Remind yourself of the importance of keeping yourself under control. If you feel anger building inside, don't pick up a baby. Ask for help or wait until you are calm.

*Consciously lower your voice.* Yelling will only make a child angry and defensive, and it can scare a young child. A soft tone says you're in control.

*Don't catastrophize.* Resist the temptation to blow something out of proportion. Avoid using the words "always" and "never" when you talk to yourself and others.

*Distract yourself.* Is there any way you can laugh about the situation? Ask yourself: what is the real significance of the situation that triggered my rage? It's more important to model a healthy approach to stress than it is to win certain battles. Choose those battles carefully.

Afterwards, reinforce your love for the child and retreat to assess the way you handled the situation. What did you do right? What will you do differently next time?

Susie Michelle Cortright is the author of several books for women and founder of the award-winning Momscape.com , a website designed to help busy women find balance.


Christianne said...

Natawa ako sa last part - when I'm really stressed sometimes it helps just to think "i-blo-blog ko ito mamaya". I get distracted thinking about what I'm going to write, so even if I usually don't have time to sit down and write about it, just the idea of blogging helps me. Malabo ba? :D

I agree with a lot of the tips, especially reading up on child development to better understand your child :)

Heart of Rachel said...

Thanks for sharing this wonderful post. As much as I want to remain calm and patient, there are times I still lose my temper but I always regret it at the end.

I have resorted to counting 1-10 and leaving the scene whenever I'm mad in order not to say or do something I would just regret later.

raqgold said...

christianne -- bulls eye! pareho tayo, when i think that i would be blogging about my temper, i get distracted, haha!

rach -- i think sometimes we just need to burst kahit na we are so patient; i also count 1-10 or leave whenever it's too much for me, thought sometimes, i leave too late and the damage's been done :-(