September has arrived, and kids everywhere headed back to school. No matter how well-prepared you are, back-to-school season is most likely a little chaotic – and that’s okay!
But there’s another thing about back-to-school that doesn’t get talked about nearly enough: the relief many of us feel.
All summer long, your kids have been home with you. Which is wonderful, don’t get me wrong. But let’s be real: having your kids home can also be a lot of other things, like:
… and so much more. If you’re at your wit’s end by the time back-to-school comes around, that’s totally understandable – and you’re not alone! I see so many parents in and out of my practice, who have been saying the same thing:
“I feel so relieved that my child is going back to school. I feel sad too, but I’m just so tired of losing it on them. I needed a break so bad.”
Sound familiar? If you’ve been “losing it” on your kids this summer, try not to feel guilty about it. We’ve all been there; kids know how to push our buttons, and they’ve had plenty of time to do so while they were home from school.
As a mom to a child who entered school for the first time this year, I was soooo looking forward to drop off time. Truth be told, I even came home and did a happy dance!
Not a happy dance because I’m "rid of her", but happy because now I have a chunk of time to myself. Time to do whatever I please without having to coordinate my self care with anyone else. Time to commute with my own thoughts. Any even more of a relief - time to myself that I don’t have to pay for!
While it’s important to let go of any guilt and be kind to yourself, many parents do reach out to me asking for tips on how not to lose it. Losing your patience with your kid never feels good and it’s not something that most of us parents want to do.
We want and strive to stay calm and collected through any disagreement. We want to remember to take a breath when we’re ticked off. We want to patiently look into our child’s eyes and explain to them why what they’re doing is wrong. Right?
Yes, but the reality is it can be a hard ask to stay calm and collected all of the time as a parent. There are, however, some tips and tools you can use to help yourself keep calm and control your anger – most of the time.
The next time you’re seeing red, try these things.
1. Take a deep breath and reset.
When you are feeling overwhelmed, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. A breath deep enough that your belly gets pushed out as far as it can. You may also want to say something like,
“I’m feeling really frustrated right now, and I don’t want us to fight. I need to pause and take a few deep breaths before we continue.”
Bonus point alert - doing it in front of your child is also showing them what they can do when they are overwhelmed.
Once you have taken your breaths, check in with the anger inside you. Chances are, you will notice a shift in how much you want to lose it on them. From there you should be able to continue the conversation.
2. Know your weaknesses, and do something about them.
When I say “weaknesses,” I’m not talking about physical strength. I mean the other factors in your life that make it more likely that you lose your patience to begin with.
For example, sleep is a big one. When we don’t sleep enough, we’re more likely to be irritable and depressed – the research proves it! Other factors that could make you lose patience more easily could be not eating enough (or not eating the right things), being under a lot of stress, and having conflicts in other relationships (like in your marriage, friendships, family, etc.).
Pay attention to these triggers. Practice self-awareness. Notice when you’re in the “danger zone” – a physical or mental state that makes you irritable and more likely to “lose it” with your kids.
Once you know what your triggers are, do something about them. Practice self-care when it’s possible. Get restful sleep. Manage your stress. Do whatever it takes to get out of that danger zone.
3. Practice self-forgiveness.
I can’t stress this enough. Forgive yourself for the occasional slip-up. Without a doubt, the worst part of losing your patience with your kids is the horrendous guilt that comes afterward. No one enjoys fighting with their children. But arguments are a normal part of parenting. No one is in love with being a parent (or their children) every single moment.
Blaming and hating yourself for becoming angry won’t help anyone. Instead, practice self-forgiveness. First, take a deep breath in, and a deep breath out. Let your mind go back to whatever happened between you and your child. If there’s any damage to be repaired or apologies to be made, prioritize that.
Then, talk to yourself the way you’d talk to a friend who is going through the same situation. You might say something like,
“I know that you feel bad about losing it on (insert your child's name). You’re human, not a superhero. You’re going to make mistakes sometimes. You are not bad person or a bad parent. You’re doing your best. You can learn from this and you will get better.”
If your anger or guilt feels out of control, then you might benefit from joining my parent support group. As a therapist, I work with all sorts of different parents. They all have one thing in common – they love their children more than anything, and want to be the best person they can be for them. I bet that’s true for you, too.
As always, thanks for reading. And congratulations on making it to the end of summer!
Recently I sent out a survey inquiring about issues parents wanted help with. The feedback I received entailed learning how to manage tantrums, dealing with resistance to transitions and coping with parent guilt.
As each parenting situation is different, I thought it be best to start off with listing a few books I believe are helpful to any parent who wants to feel more in control and less guilty.
1) Parenting from the Inside Out by Daniel Siegel and Mary Hartzell - The essence of this book is to help you as a parent understand the science behind your emotions and how your childhood is currently influencing your parenting.
What I loved about this book is how much it normalizes what many of us parents are feeling at one point or another. I also loved the parental self-reflection exercise that personally gave me an opportunity reflect on who I was as a child. Forewarning- this part was difficult, at least for me, because it did tap into some pain from my childhood. Be that as it may, I strongly encourage every parent to consider the importance of some of these questions. Once you decide to take on the questions in this book, be sure to also bring a notebook and a box of tissues.
2) Hold On To Your Kids by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Maté - this book is geared to parents who are interested in learning how to keep their child close especially during the teen years.
What I love - it gives hope to those of us who believe it is normal for teens to detach from us and want nothing to do with us. It also informs us of how certain behaviors from toddlerhood end up feeding into this sense of teenage detachment. I also love how real it is about topics surrounding peer pressure and sexuality.
What I don't love about this book is some of the verbiage that may spark insecurities within a parent. There were moments where I thought some people might feel like they are being shamed. Overall though, I would recommend parents read this book even if you don't have a teenager yet because laying the foundation now with your young child can help make things better by the time they reach the tween and teen years.
3) Parenting with Theraplay by Vivien Norris and Helen Rodwell - this book is particularly helpful in understanding how children and parent attach anmd detach both verbally and non-verbally.
What I love about this book - it explains four different ways we can connect with each other, signs to look for that indicate we are having trouble connecting and games we can play with our child to help facilitate a stronger bond.
What I don't like about this book is how overwhelming it may be for some parents because of how much information it provides through the lens of a therapeutic approach that some may not be familiar with. Guidance from a therapist trained in Theraplay can help with reducing any sense of overwhelm. I would recommend this book for any parent who is looking for tips/strategies on how to connect with your child and feel more in control as a parent.
Overall, there is no shortage of parenting books on the market. The three aforementioned, are ones that have helped me on my parenting journey and as a result I have recommended to some of the parents I worked with and have seen it help them.
Would you like to share you the names of books that have helped you on your parenting journey? Feel free to share them below.
If you are you interested in taking the survey to let me me know how I can help you, click here.
Thank you for reading!
Last month I discussed the insight I learned from my five year old child regarding oppositional behavior. This month, I'm going to share something else I became enlightened to.
During the month of May, I was discussing celebrating Mother's day and Father's day and how, in our household, the mother and/or father get to do whatever their heart desires. Cue in my daughter who asks, "Is their a children's day?" My adult self immediately retorted, "everyday is children's day," but then therapist self came into the picture and realized the following:
While it seems like everyday is children's day because children typically don't have to work, pay bills and care for children, the truth of the matter is children have just as much stress and exhaustion as adults. Think about it, in a typical school-aged child's life, they have to:
So, after my daughter's inquiry, I Googled children's day and wouldn't you know, there is a National Children's Day celebrated on the second Sunday of June. There is also an International Children's Day celebrated on November 20th. National Children's day is about recognizing children for how great they are and as well remembering that children are sometimes still exploited and also struggle for a variety of reasons including poverty.
In recognition of National Children's Day, I want to provide a few suggestions on how you can recognize the greatness of your child. Here a few things to consider doing:
1) Play with them - whether you are playing a structured game with rules or letting them lead you into imaginary play, the goal is to have uninterrupted play where they are leading and have say over what's happening. I know this is a hard concept for many but check out one of my past blog posts to learn how to have more fun at least while playing board games.
2) Let them choose what they want to do - I recently watched a movie called Yes Day. The premise is that the parents are challenged for 24 hours to say Yes to whatever their children ask for. While I was at first skeptical and practical about the notion, after watching the movie it allowed me see how it could work.
So, I challenge you to first watch the movie so you know what I'm talking about and then reflect on what you can incorporate in your household that will allow your child(ren) to feel like they are in charge. For me, I'm playing with the idea of having a Yes morning, afternoon or evening. Basically, a few hours where my child can decide how we are to spend it. Rules of course are allowed. ;)
3) Make a card for your child - isn't wonderful when we receive affirmation of how great we are? Kids love it as well. Perhaps you can draw them something or create a craft with them. Not creative? Head over to your local craft store (the Dollar Store work just fine) and pick up a painting kit or anything you can create for your child or with your child. Let go of the notion of it being perfect and just have fun with it. Need some other tips? Check out this blog post to learn more about showing your child love.
Overall, anytime you spend with your child that doesn't have interruptions and allows them to show you who they are, is time well spent. It doesn't just have to be a designated day like National Children's day but having a designated day in the year helps to remind us to take time to show appreciation.
Thank you for reading!
Christine M. Valentín
Welcome to my blog where I provide tips on learning how to connect with your child and how to feel more in control of your parenting journey.
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