Every parent dreads it, but it’s just a fact of life: at some point, your children are going to totally melt down, usually in a public place, and it’s going to take every ounce of your will not to melt down yourself.
Kids freak out. It’s part of their contract. And some parents might like to respond to this by pouring a huge glass of wine to cope. But, what if you would rather not? More and more people are choosing alcohol-free lifestyles, but is that even conceivable while raising young ones? Any parent in recovery will tell you: parenting without booze is possible.
Here are four tips to cope:
1. Plan for the Pandemonium:
Any ship captain will tell you, you must pack the lifeboats before you leave the harbor. Kids can try your patience on a daily basis, so it’s best to put a little time in before-hand to prepare for the chaos. It’s always good to get up a little early, ahead of your little ones, to sort out the day’s activities and plan ahead for the trouble-spots. It really is true, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
If you are traveling with kids, make sure you have snacks on hand, and perhaps a good book or two in the backseat to help with boredom. If you know that every day gets a little cranky in the late afternoon, schedule in their daily dose of television viewing around that time, or get a snack prepped for them with lots of yummy protein and carbs. Simply knowing that you have a few fail-safe strategies on hand will ease your mind.
2. But Also, Let Go of Expectations:
Planning has its advantages, but there are times when chaos will reign. Nothing in life is fully controllable, and small children love lawlessness. Another great tactic to help deal with this is acceptance. Your children will misbehave. They will cry and scream and do really embarrassing things, usually in public. If you find yourself getting increasingly stressed about this, find a quiet place, breathe, and realize that this too, shall pass. Most of the time, the chaos can be short lived, and the sooner you are able to view the tantrum as not sign of your failure in parenting the better. One of the best ways to grasp this concept is to talk to other moms and dads about their experiences in parenting. Sharing those horrible and gritty details about their kids’ most epic tantrums will probably result in a lot of laughter and relief that other parents are feeling the same.
3. Get Down to Their Level:
One of the best ways to deal with the stress of parenting is to simply forget you are a parent for a while and try to remember what it’s like to be a toddler again.
There is a really simple way to do this. You stop, take a deep breath, and you get down on your knees and look that crying kid right in the eye. Look past all the snot, and the rage, and the wailing, and get right on down to their level. You can ask them, “What are you feeling?” Or, you can simply look at them, let them know you are listening, and maybe just be still in the moment. There is something about that moment, where you really look into their eyes that can help the stress and longings for perfection fall away. It really does work. Sometimes.
4. And If All Else Fails, Get Away:
And, when nothing seems to work, it is entirely permissible for you to take a moment to yourself. When the kids are hitting their wall and you feel like you need to hit the whiskey, it might be best to walk away for a moment. Put the kids in a place where they won’t get into mischief and go to your happy place — a back porch is good, or a quiet bedroom. Sit and take a moment for yourself. Eat a piece of chocolate. Find your breath. It’s not going to last forever, this chaos and clutter and nutty behavior. If getting away is simply impossible, because your child is having a major meltdown in a large container store, and you can’t just disappear, then get the kids home, and right away get yourself to your happy place. Take the time for yourself. It will feed your soul, and refill your non-alcoholic cup.
Looking for more ways to fight those perfectionistic feelings? Read my book, How to Be Perfect Like Me and remember… perfection is for puppies. Not for parents.
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