I sit here thinking ‘what in the Sam hell are we doing awake so early!?!’ I am woken up almost two hours earlier than usual for the sixth day in a row by my screaming son. There is no obvious reason, nothing I can pin it on. My son is extra snuggly but otherwise his happy self, while I sit here feeling completely exhausted.
Why it is when your kids finally get into a routine suddenly everything changes. Just when you feel you are getting the hang of things you are lost again. I’ve realized over the last five years that the only constant in parenting is CHANGE. Nothing lasts forever … but sometimes you feel like it will never end.
In my experience, two kids makes it inevitable that we are experiencing change AT ALL TIMES. For nearly six months my kids literally traded off waking up in the middle of the night (after both had been sleeping peacefully through the night for some time). The worst part was there wasn’t usually something you could pinpoint – chalking it up to another phase we had to ride out. I can’t imagine how a third or fourth child multiplies the chance for change (my hat goes off to you parents more than two kids-you are rock stars in my book!).
How do we deal with all of this change? By becoming a resilient parent and raising resilient children (read Teach Resilience: Help Your Kids Thrive here). What does that mean? The American Academy of Pediatrics says resilience is ‘the capacity to rise above difficult circumstances’. It is a trait that allows us to thrive in this ever-changing world by handling challenges or perceived setbacks in a healthy way.
People who are resilient are
- Better able to handle disappointment
- Learn and grow from challenges and hardships
- Cope with loss
- Adapt to change
Ding Ding Ding! Here we have it folks, the answer to all our parenting problems. Building resiliency will help us adapt to the constant change we encounter on our parenting journey! The best part is this is something we have control over. It is a learned trait that can be fostered and developed. Yes, you can become a better parent AND help teach your kids the tools they need to roll with the punches easier. Woo hoo!
How do we cultivate resiliency for ourselves? For the step-by-step guide on how to become a resilient parent download here
- Use your support network. Research has found this is the most important factor affecting our ability to be resilient. Reach out to those around you who can offer you encouragement and reassurance. Whether it is family, friends, coworkers, or someone else communicate your needs and tell them exactly how they can help – then ACCEPT IT! If they are a good source of support they will appreciate any guidance from you. Don’t cut people off and avoid social interaction, this will only bring you further into a dark place.
- Accept that life is always changing. Embrace change or you will forever live in the past, wishing your present away. View life as full of new challenges and opportunities. Look for ways to learn and grow from the change. What doors will open? What will your new normal or this new stage bring with it that is good or necessary?
- Be flexible. Life throws us curve balls. Things won’t always go the way we planned. You will get spit up on as you leave for work or the one night you get a babysitter your kids will get sick. Have back up plans for when things go awry and if all else fails throw your plans out the window. Try to be open to different options when faced with challenges or uncertainty.
- Emphasize control. Stressful situations are going to happen, that is a fact of life and usually outside of our control. What we can control is how we interpret and respond to circumstances. Take action, no matter how small, to gain a sense of control over a stressful situation. Try to accept when something is out of your control. Visualize the result you want and resist the urge to worry about it because it will only make you more upset or anxious.
- Don’t make mountains out of mole hills. We can blow situations way out of proportion, stressing ourselves out unnecessarily. Try asking yourself, ‘how could things be worse than they are now?’ Being able to view your situation from a different perspective makes it more tolerable. Think about how realistic the ‘worst case scenario’ is … what are the odds that it could happen, and if it did happen what would be the worst possible outcome? Normally the answer is something we can recover from. Take a second to look to the future to see how things will get better.
- Make realistic plans…and then take the steps needed to carry the plans out. Use small steps to break down larger goals into manageable pieces you are ready to tackle. Learn to say no to avoid taking on too much and setting yourself up for failure.
- Think positive thoughts. Our thoughts are very powerful and can dictate our response to experiences we encounter. Depending on our thoughts (rational/irrational) a situation may be extremely stressful or not stressful at all. The more rational our thoughts, the more manageable the stress will be and the less energy we lose trying to handle it. We can’t activate positive energy without positive thoughts. Remember, most of the challenges you run into are temporary, and that you have overcome setbacks in the past.
- Take time for self-reflection. Ask yourself ‘how am I handling the situation?’ or ’what could I be doing different?’ Adversity often gives us the opportunity to learn and grow as an individual. Many people come out of difficult times even stronger than they were before, but in order for that to happen you have to look inward and take time to reflect.
- Learn some new coping skills. Practice mindfulness with deep breathing, take a yoga class, put the kids in a stroller and walk off your frustrations, vent to a friend, or write in a journal. Find a technique that works to help you unwind and manage the stress of the situation better. Plan positive events into your day, no matter how small, to lift your spirits. Scheduling time for something that will put a smile on your face can turn your whole outlook around. Call a friend on your commute home, take a walk with your spouse, or schedule a playdate with a friend.
- Take care of yourself physically. Stress will wipe us out. Eating right, exercising regularly, and getting the sleep we need helps keep our mind and body ready to deal with stressful situations. Remember, you cannot pour from an empty cup.
- Normalize things instead of personalize them. Personalizing the situation by saying ‘why does this always happen to me?’ makes you out to be the victim. Our beliefs affect how we interpret and respond to the situation. Reword the thought to look like ‘these things happen to everyone, not just me.’ This way you won’t feel like the universe is ganging up on you.
- Fill in the blank
- Old thought = I can’t stand it when ____ happens.
- New thought = I can stand it when ____ happens. And sometimes I handle it pretty well.
- Fill in the blank
- Be proactive and responsive. Resilient people build setbacks into their definition of success. They realize nothing worth doing or achieving is ever accomplished without experiencing frustration and setbacks. When you see circumstances changing, try getting ahead of it by asking yourself ‘what can I do to lessen the blow or be better prepared?’ For example, if you notice your child getting sick, be proactive by giving your child lots of liquids and rest. Keep the rest of the family away from your sick child to prevent it spreading.
Our lives are in constant flux and I’ve come to terms with the fact that life is going to be crazy for a while. Hopefully these tips help you as much as they’ve helped me. Let me know what else you do to handle change.
For the printable step-by-step guide on how to become a resilient parent download here
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