How can I concentrate on my kids when the world around me is spinning out of control?
Maybe a call with the movers has left you stressed. An email from a spouse says orders have evaporated into nowhere. A deployment has left you without any energy. The kids are sick and you can’t get off from your job. And, in the middle of it all, you must continue to parent.
When stress levels are high, it’s easy to lose your temper. It’s easy to mentally “check-out.” And it’s easy to feel like you’re failing as a parent.
We all want to act the way we do during the mornings when we’ve gotten enough sleep, when we have another parent around to help, or when things are going smoothly. Then we could be the “perfect parent.”
Deep down, you know that perfect parenting is not possible. In fact, may we propose that “perfect” isn’t what your kids need. They need a “real parent.” A parent that shares their flaws but shows them how to grow from them. A parent who can teach them how to deal with challenges, how to be sad but still loving. Kids need to know that it is okay to be imperfect.
But when those moments of tired happen, completely falling apart is not what you or any child needs.
When change won’t slow down to let you catch your breath, maybe, just maybe, there’s something you can do to slow down for a minute so you can intentionally parent (even in the middle of chaos).
Don’t let a call during the middle of breakfast make you bark at the kids. Don’t let an email from work make you say unkind words on the way to school in the car.
It’s not about trying to be perfect, but trying to be your best in the middle of that moment.
Here are three easy steps to being present in the middle of chaos:
Mourn for a moment. Acknowledge your loss. You may mourn that you don’t have the time you need, the chance to do something you looked forward to, or maybe something you wished would have happened. Take a minute to be sad about what you’ve lost before you react. It may be as easy as thinking, “This is not what I want, but it’s what’s happening.” Then, “I don’t want to make this moment worse…”
Mellow-out so you don’t meltdown. Breathe. Close your eyes. Go into another room. But don’t let your emotions boil over onto your child. Imagine your energy literally coming out of you onto them. Reds. Yellows. Oranges. And then imagine that energy turning to blues, greens, spilling onto them instead. If you need to, count down from ten. Figure out what works for you. Some of us need longer than others to mellow out. That’s okay!
Move-on together. Ask for a hug. They see that you are upset. They want to help make you feel better and a hug can go a million miles toward repairing a struggling heart. An older child may want to talk about why you seem sad. Don’t be afraid to share what’s appropriate — maybe they are feeling the same thing. Don’t be afraid to tell your kids that you are sad or mad or hurt by something. Kids need to know it is alright to say how we feel.
Transforming that minute of internal chaos into outward calm is something every parent struggles with during the day. A parent in a military family has some unique challenges that can make those moments extra difficult. While we teach ourselves the 3Ms, our children will learn them too. Then, when life throws them challenges, they are prepared with a coping mechanism for being their best in that moment.