You had big plans for how you envisioned life as a parent…or maybe you didn’t — but they’re here now and you are shook (do people still say shook?). You’re shocked at how triggered you can get by this tiny human you made, almost embarrassed by some of your reactions to them, and want so badly to consistently do better.
If this sounds about right, then you’re in the right place. In this article, I will discuss (in no particular order) the 5 keys to improving the connection between you and your children.
What purpose do our emotions serve? I’ve come to understand our emotions as not only a natural part of the human experience — with no emotion as good or bad — but also as being informational. Emotions deemed positive, typically reinforce that things are on the right track for you. Emotions considered negative, serve to bring our attention to the parts of us needing to be acknowledged, challenged, and/or healed.
How does this help us in our daily lives with our kids? The feeling of overwhelm or anxiety for example, may be signaling a need for more rest and recharge time. If this state of being feels like your norm, it may be a good time to consider why? Journaling is a great way to shed some light on some potentially outdated beliefs that may be keeping you stuck.
When shit hits the fan and you feel yourself approaching the end of your rope, practice pausing and asking yourself, what about this is actually setting me off? If this isn’t possible in the moment, then spending some time after the fact — instead of scrolling social media or binging Netflix, while feeling shitty about how that moment or day went, may be a more productive way to spend your evening.
Often, our younger unhealed self has a big reaction to whatever thing our kid did to set us off, out of a need to keep our child safe. Why? Because our younger self knows that that behaviour is something we’d have gotten in trouble for.
Another possibility is that the way you’ve been doing this parenting thing, is really the only way you know how — and that’s ok. I struggled to connect with my girls when they were younger, and through this work I realized that the connection piece was missing from my own upbringing, which meant that I simply didn’t know how.
The sky isn’t falling and nothing’s on fire. Slowing down disengages the alarm bells in our nervous system, which allows us to shift from being in a reactive state, to one that is more responsive. Practice being mindful by not always multitasking — and I realize this isn’t always possible, but it’s not not always possible either. When you’re showering, practicing keeping your mind present. Actually feel the water on your skin — instead of mindlessly lathering, rinsing, and repeating.
Since our kids are not doing life at the same speed we are, this act of slowing down also allows us to better connect with them. They are experiencing things and emotions for the first time and not only need more time to transition from one activity or request to the next, but they also need to be able to trust that we can give them the space and support to figure it all out. Slowing down and moving out of being in an almost constant state of stress, also allows our child’s nervous system to calm down.
You cannot effectively self-regulate AND be in a state of overwhelm, at the same time. Filling one’s cup will look different for everyone, but it doesn’t need to be a big extravagant event. It could look like getting up before the rest of the house to have 10 mins of alone time or breaking out into a dance party in the middle of the kitchen — with or without the kids. It can be taking a walk after dropping the kids off, or while on your lunch break. Take the time to think about the things that bring you joy — and if you’re stuck, zoom out and think about what brought you joy before life started feeling so hectic. For me, it’s getting my nails done once a month. Being kinder to yourself and showing yourself grace and compassion, allows you to be gentler with your littles.
If we believe someone or something is deliberately causing us stress, our behaviour towards the thing or person will reflect our perspective. A simple change in perspective can change the trajectory of your parenting story. Seeing your child as having a hard time versus giving you a hard time, will allow you to show up in a more supportive manner, as opposed to the feeling of having to nip the situation in the bud.
Recognizing that our child’s emotions are not a reflection of us — and doing the work to understand where that belief came from in the first place — is hugely beneficial to improving the connection between you and your child. Your kid having a melt down because it’s time to leave the park, is NOT their attempt at embarrassing you. Your kid is having a kid response to having to transition from one activity to another.
Working on how we relate to and connect with our kids, often leads us down a path of self rediscovery and thereby improving our connection to ourselves. It doesn’t have to be complicated, but it does take a bit of work.
Here’s to connection over control!