Keep Calm & Parent- Pandemic Style
We knew parenting was hard. It was unimaginable how hard it could really get, and then COVID19 came.
As a wife, working mom of two, a group practice owner, a university professor, and an international speaker, things got rough REAL fast. Here we are now, 9 months in and the holidays are here. Even with all my “education” and life experience, I entered a new level of stress and concern for my family. I recognize how lucky I am that my family can work and our bills can be paid. I know I’m speaking from a privileged position, and our life still got turned upside down too. My marriage is strained, which is saying something as we have been through some hard shit. I still have kids emotionally melting down, distance learning is NOT working for us(my other half is a teacher), and I can clearly see the daily functioning and mental health of my family dramatically decline. Lastly, my self-care is ZERO!
Yet, I have hope. I have gratitude to focus on, to be the stabilizer of my ship.
Daily, I work with many parents in the community where this is all true and MORE! I sit for hours with empathy and compassion, holding and containing the stressors of so many. I feel the pain, confusion, and underlying fear that the world is full of right now.
I have been driven to help, IT IS WHAT I DO.
And then COVID19 came, life changed, the world changed, the need for helping others grew. So here is a taste of how Playful Wisdom Parenting can be there for you when you need it, to know it isn’t about skills as much as holding onto the best parts of yourself, being truly authentic as a parent, and staying connected to your kids.
To have the type of relationship where discipline is less, love is more, and joy flows!
With that being said, curiosity, play, and connection are the core principles of Playful Wisdom. I wanted to give you some of the connecting strategies that I speak to in Playful Wisdom, that have been working for me to ease the stress, maintain my relationships with kids and spouse, AND hold on to the little sanity I have left during this global pandemic.
Let's just say that “No”, “Stop,” “Don't”- Got to GO!
Ever wonder why it seems your children never hear you? Do you feel like a broken record saying “no” all the time, or “stop”, or even “don’t do ….”? Do you feel like you're just not getting through to them? Well, you're right, you're not.
Parents frequently fall into the trap of repeating themselves when attempting to get a child's attention. In desperation, they say things louder, more frequently, and more emotionally. Emotions and tempers rise fast till they crash.
Have you noticed that once you start saying “no, don’t do that or stop doing that,” the child continues anyways? That is because we are not communicating what the child needs to hear. In my practice as a child mental health specialist and as a parent, I frequently provide the same feedback to parents, and now you.
All the time I hear parents say, “if they would just do what I tell them to!” or “If they would just listen!” However, they are listening. Kids hear everything and they know when they need to respond, just before they are about to be given a consequence.
Kids are savvy. They know the tone, pitch, and words you use that tell them you are about to lose it. So they jump up and comply. Some kids don’t and as a result, they keep getting the same consequence over and over to the point that many parents feel “they will never learn.” “Consequences don’t work,” “I feel nothing works anymore, they don’t care.”
The problem is parents are telling children what NOT to do when instead we need to tell them WHAT to do. * A neuroscience secret (they only hear the last few words you say.)
It is a small change with a BIG IMPACT.
Telling kids what NOT to do Telling kids WHAT to do.
Stop/no touching that! Don’t touch! Hands in your pockets/Hands on your lap
Stop/no hitting! Hands to yourself/ Be gentle
Stop/no yelling! Speak quietly/ Whisper please
Just remember when you want to stop your child from doing something they shouldn't, be positive, tell them what to do instead.
Getting their attention first is key for their ears to be able to listen. As children grow and develop, their multiple sensory systems develop at different rates and at different times. Listening is easier if they are looking at you, as this allows two sensory systems to be working in sync (Visual and Auditory).
Repeating the child's name then say Eyes on me/Come to me: “Mac eyes on me!”
We, as parents, often demand prompt attention the moment we request it, getting frustrated with the seemingly delayed slow response our children give.
Parents, let’s think about this, how often do you immediately respond to a directive from someone? Don’t we usually finish the task we are doing and then follow through? It seems obvious that we would respond to a directive in that way, no one likes to be interrupted! Yet we often fail to give a child the same grace time to respond and comply. Instead of getting frustrated immediately after a request, try giving the directive and waiting 10 seconds before you say anything else.
Respect their developing brain and give it time to process. Less arguing, I promise.
Stop talking! When we are frustrated as parents, we usually want to explain everything, to be HEARD. In fact, we often demand it which causes our child to often begin disrespecting us more. This is because they are now mirroring that very behavior back.
More than likely, a child will check-out, because their brains are unable to process your talking as they are overwhelmed too with emotions, and using multiple senses at once is a challenge. *A neuroscience fact: sensory systems(body) have to be regulated before they can listen.
Lecturing and "talking it out" when a child is emotional and upset only furthers the discord. Using as few words as possible in the moment of your child’s emotional meltdown will be more likely to get through to them. How old are they? Use that amount of words. If they are Four, use Four words.
Often the best response is SILENCE. Just BE WITH THEM DURING THIS TIME. This is the time to connect with them; there will be opportunities to talk about it later on.
Your presence is often the greatest parenting “skill” you can learn because it demonstrates love, respect, care, understanding, and empathy. All things we WANT THEM TO MODEL as they develop. When a child is struggling, they are hurting and in real pain.
Focus your care on the pain, soothe the hurt, connect with them, and love them.
Keep Calm & Parent on!
Even more now, getting it all done and being a perfect parent does you more harm. We can’t do it all.
We are surviving a very difficult time, an unprecedented time, a time the history books will write about. EVERYONE is doing the best they can with what they have, and for many of us, even that is beginning to disappear. Have grace for yourself!
DO self-care before anything else. Choose to play with the kids and not clean the house. Live in the now, not the future. If anything, COVID19 has taught us that today matters much more than tomorrow.
Remember that your most important job as a parent is to CONNECT with your child. Connection can feel like an incredibly difficult task when we ourselves are feeling frustrated or focused on achieving the task at hand and surviving the world is in a global pandemic.
Practice making these small changes to the way you communicate with your child to increase connection, decrease stress, and have more positive moments in your day.
Don’t try to change everything at once, it will be an automatic fail.
As a parent, it is so easy to get frustrated and feel like you're not getting through to your child. The small changes I mentioned above will make a big difference in how you are connecting with your child.
A few simple changes to how you connect and communicate with your child will be the first steps to parenting towards JOY! The Playful Wisdom way.
Be Curious. Be Connected. Be You! Let’s do this!
~ Cary M. Hamilton
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