In this podcast (episode #498) and blog, I talk about what to do when you are feeling overwhelmed and you are about to lose your cool around your children.
As I mentioned in my podcast on messy parenting, we all know that parenting is hard. As parents, we will make mistakes. We are only human, after all!
As parents and guardians, it is important that we give ourselves permission to be what I call “messy”. This means embracing our feelings and mistakes and learning from them, using them to grow and learn as parents. It means using our own struggles to help our children understand how to manage the “messiness” and challenges of life through example and open communication. Indeed, one of the best ways we can teach our children how to manage their mental health is by modeling how we deal with life’s difficulties, including how we parent them and how we embrace, process and manage our own mistakes.
This includes moments when we are about to lose our cool in front of our children! We shouldn’t beat ourselves up if this happens. Rather, we should apologize to our children and let them know that we need to take some time to work on ourselves. This is not only a great way to show your children that we all make mistakes and that these mistakes do not define our worth as human beings, but also to model how to learn from our mistakes and change the way they play out in our future. Telling your children you need a little time to work on yourself is not something you should feel guilty about. This is what I call the “oxygen mask principle”: you should help yourself before you can effectively help your child.
When you feel yourself on the ledge, a great way to calm down your mind, brain, and body, and reset, is by doing what I call a “brain preparation exercise”. This doesn’t take a long time, and can be done even when you are watching your children. (You can even get them to join in with you if you want!) This is a simple, mind-driven action that prepares your mind and optimizes your brain and body, allowing you to calm down enough to react in the most favorable way. Some great examples of brain preparation exercises are breathing, tapping, mindful meditation, prayer, emotional freedom techniques, havening, or any combination of these.
I personally love what I call “the 10 second pause rule”. Before saying anything, pause and breathe for at least 10 seconds. This will give your mind, brain and body time to calm down, and can help de-escalate a tense situation. You can also practice deep breathing using the box method: breathe in for four counts, hold for four counts, breathe out for four counts, hold for four counts. You can repeat this three or four times, or until you feel calmer. Focus on how your breath feels going in and out or how this type of breathing is calming down your mind and brain. You can even visualize what you think this looks like in your brain and support this with a statement like “I can have a moment before I respond.”
Then, you want to get to the root of why you feel the way you do so you aren’t just putting a Band-Aid on the problem and allowing it to become a negative issue in your life. To do this, I recommend using the Neurocycle mind management method I have developed and studied over the past three decades, which I discuss in detail in my book Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess and my app Neurocycle.
The Neurocycle is a way to harness your thinking power that I have developed and researched over the past three decades. It has 5 steps. The first step is to 1. gather awareness of how you feel mentally and physically. The second step is to 2.reflect on how you feel. Why do you think you feel this way? Then you 3. write down your reflections to help organize your thinking. The fourth step is to 4. recheck: think about what your thoughts and feelings are trying to tell you. What does it say about how you view the situation? What is your “antidote”— how will you work through what is affecting you? Look for clues in your writing, then start to reframe/reconceptualize the way you are thinking about what happened and how you can improve the situation. Lastly, you do your 5. active reach. This is a thought or action you need to practice daily to help you reconceptualize what you thought about in the previous step - that is, what you are going to do each day to give yourself the time and mental space needed to deal with what is bothering you.
The Neurocycle process works by identifying toxic thoughts and destabilizing them over cycles of 63 days by building up positive, healthy, reconceptualized thoughts. I also teach parents how to use this method of mind management with their children in my upcoming book, which is now available for preorder: How to Help Your Child Clean Up Their Mental Mess.
If you don’t have anyone who can watch your children in the moment, then try to schedule in a time later in the day to work on the root of the issue. You will need to do this to find the pattern of your thinking and your triggers to create sustainable change in your mind and life.
Throughout this process, it is important to remind yourself that no one can truly prepare you for all the things that come with parenting. You may read a thousand parenting books and do a lot of research, but your experience as a parent will be completely unique to you, and you will have to do a lot of learning on the go. This is okay and normal!
Tell yourself these few things everyday:
- “I love my children and want the best for them, but I sometimes make mistakes and I cannot be helpful if I hold on to my anger or guilt.”
- “I am allowed to make mistakes and I am allowed to be sad. I can still help my child have an amazing life and help them with their mental health if things are not happy or great all the time.”
As you remind yourself of these things, you are acknowledging your emotions, behaviors, bodily sensations, and perspective, and creating awareness of the thoughts these are attached to and how they are showing up in your life. This helps you self-regulate how you think, feel and choose in the moment, and will help you practice being kind to yourself and showing yourself grace when you make a mistake.
And remember to schedule in time for yourself to do things that make you happy. This will give you the space needed to decompress and rest, so that when you get back into parenting mode, you will have more energy and won’t feel so burnt out and ready to break!
For more on parenting and children’s mental health, listen to my podcast (episode #498). If you enjoy listening to my podcast, please consider leaving a 5-star review and subscribing. And keep sharing episodes with friends and family and on social media. (Don’t forget to tag me so I can see your posts!).
Preorder my new book How to Help Your Child Clean Up Their Mental Mess before August 7th, 2023 to receive exclusive bonuses, including access to a 1-hour webinar + Q&A session on back-to-school tips and strategies to help your child mentally prepare for the year ahead! You can preorder here.
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2:00 What you can do when you are about to lose your cool in front of your children
2:30 What happens in the mind, brain & body when we feel like things are too much
5:40 How to calm your mind, brain & body when you feel like you are about to explode
8:35 The power of deep breathing
13:40 Why we need to work on our triggers as parents
16:50, 23:55 How to use mind management & the Neurocycle to change your reactions
This podcast and blog are for educational purposes only and are not intended as medical advice. We always encourage each person to make the decision that seems best for their situation with the guidance of a medical professional.