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September has arrived, and kids everywhere are 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!
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