By Katherine Denton
Ever feel like a ticking time bomb? Parenting preschoolers can bring you to your breaking point. Sometimes it’s just a challenge to not scream and act like a child yourself. After one too many guilt-provoking episodes, I decided to try something different. I found this technique in Dr. David Burns’ book Feeling Good, The New Mood Therapy. When you find yourself growing hostile, Burns recommends focusing on your thoughts. Easier said than done! It is difficult to put the brakes on anger-inducing thoughts exploding in your head. Dr. Burns suggests writing down your thoughts and confronting their validity. When I finally faced my thoughts, I was blown away. I hadn’t realized I held such unrealistic expectations for myself and my child. I created this list to help bring me back to reality when my thoughts threaten to run off with reason.
- You are not perfect. And like all parents, you never will be. The stress from trying puts you and your kids on the fast track to insanity. If you were somehow capable of accomplishing this amazing feat, everyone would be wondering what terrible secret you were really hiding. And even worse, you’d be so boring. Seek good enough over perfection. Accept that you will make mistakes. Learn from them and move on to other more important things like learning to accept that …
- Your children are not perfect either. They will make mistakes. They need your help to learn from their mistakes while also keeping their self-esteem intact. Nurturing their sense of lovability, imperfections and all is paramount for their future self-concept.
- You are your children’s number one role model. They want to be like you. Keeping this in mind, show your children through your own actions how to be loving, forgiving, patient, and considerate. This is a lot easier if you…
- Give yourself a well-deserved break when you need it. You can’t do it all. Parenting is a 24/7 job which at times can be a grueling test of endurance. The craziness won’t last forever. Instead of fretting over the play dough embedded in the carpet, relax and enjoy the miracles you have created. Read that delicious new book you’ve been dying to start. Take a nap. Even better, call in a sitter and go out with your spouse or friends. Do not be afraid to ask for help. You need to take care of yourself before you can truly take care of your children. There is a lot of truth to be found in the old saying, “If momma isn’t happy, then nobody is happy”.
- Parenthood is about constant change. During pregnancy, your body and the baby were in a state of constant change. Every time you thought you knew what to expect, something new and not always pleasant happened. The same holds true for your children who are physically, mentally, and emotionally growing, sometimes right before your very eyes. Once you let go of “expectations” and accept that everything is subject to change, you can then fully enjoy the highs and get through the lows.
- Do not become attached to anything. As soon as you do, you set yourself up for a whole host of negative emotions, especially anger. Learn to just let it go… from watching your favorite TV show uninterrupted (or at all) to having your personal possessions survive little destructive hands armed with crayons, lipstick, or syrup. The only expectation you should entertain is that you will need to replace your belongings, remodel, or even worse, relocate your home in the near future.
- Patience is not only a virtue but a gift. You can give this gift to your children and yourself daily. There is so much for each of you to learn. Slow down and enjoy the process. Try to live in the moment and focus on what is most important. Instead of rushing through the day shouting orders like a drill sergeant, you can revel in the decadence of letting your children take their sweet time just enjoying the moment. It helps if you set your clocks 15-30 minutes ahead. Being late is part and parcel of parenthood. It happens. Resetting your clocks keeps you on target to get started earlier. Now when you are running on time or even just a bit late, you can relax and enjoy your time together.
- You will get angry. (See #1) You will scream and yell and act like a child yourself sometimes. Accept that you are human. Sometimes mom and dad need to take a timeout to regroup and reflect on what is important. Meditate, pray for strength. Call your mom or a trusted advisor. Make amends for your actions, let them know you love them and you are sorry for blowing up. Forgive yourself and continue on. It is much easier if you accept that …
- The world will not end if _________________ happens. During stressful times, meditate on positive thoughts that induce calm, acceptance, and tranquility. Some of my favorite mantras include: “This too shall pass,” “Life goes on” and “Keep calm and carry on.”
- It will get better. They will not always be so needy and dependent. Before you know it, they will be grown and have families of their own. Enjoy every moment of this special time you have together now. The memories you make now will be treasured for the rest of your life.
Parting thoughts- Trust me, it will get easier… at least until the teenage years arrive. To be continued…
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