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(11) Parents & Kids

Learn New Habits to Take Care of You

If there is anything that we wish to change in our children, we should first examine it and see whether it is not something that could better be changed in ourselves.

- Carl G. Jung

There is much to be said for learning, before a crisis occurs, to recognize the warning signs that you aren’t taking care of yourself. It takes a great deal of commitment and persistence to set aside old habits of self-denial and self-sacrifice and develop new habits of self-acceptance and self-respect. However, we have seen many parents do just that when they recognized how not taking care of themselves was contributing to family stress and conflict. Before you find yourself once again running on empty, try to (1) notice the warning signs that you are run down or about to say or do something you will regret, (2) pause and take a few deep breaths, and (3) take Time In, to connect with yourself.

 Exercise: Take 10

If you are a parent who is neglecting the basic requirements for your well-being, you can break the cycle of self-sacrifice by taking just ten minutes a day for yourself. These few minutes are a big improvement over taking no time at all. You can use this time to reflect on what’s important to you, to remember what you are grateful for, to meditate or pray, to read something inspiring, to appreciate yourself for your efforts, to give yourself empathy for your challenges, or to celebrate how you are meeting your needs.

Exercise: Find Out What You Need

We invite you to read over the following list of needs-needs we all have. Parents we work with have found value in using this list to reflect on the needs they are meeting and those they’d like to meet better. Some people just take mental note as they scan the list; others put a plus sign by needs they are meeting and a minus sign next to needs they are not meeting and would like to. Parents report that this exercise, done periodically, helps them stay current with themselves. They also tell us that when they are aware of needs they want to meet; simple ways to meet them more readily appear.

Parents (and all people) need:

Rest

Exercise

Healthy Food

Learning & Growth

Fun

Creativity

Purpose

Companionship

Honesty

Empathy

Support

Meaning

Contribution

Meet Your Need for Healing Past Pain

A major challenge to respectful parenting is the distress you carry from your past, especially the painful experiences you had with your parents when you were growing up. You probably aren’t even aware you have this pain until something your child does triggers an unusually intense, automatic reaction. Your child says No and pushes your hands away when you try to buckle his seat belt. You shove the seat belt into place and say, in a gruff voice, don’t you talk back to me like that! You start up the car but you’re shaking with feelings of guilt and shock. Later on you feel dismayed and wonder, where did that come from? Even later you recognize the voice:

That sounds just like my mother! I never thought I’d say that! Urgent, automatic reactions-when they are not in response to a true emergency-are indicators that you are experiencing what Daniel Goleman calls an “emotional hijacking.” At these time, your neocortex-the part of your brain where reasoning takes place-shuts down to allow the primitive brain in charge of survival to take over. When this happens, you have three choices: fight, flee, or freeze. At these moments it’s easy to think of your child as the problem. Or you might be beyond thinking and just see red and react. Automatic triggers that go off when children push your buttons are like red lights flashing on the dashboard. They are telling you to pull over to the side of the road, stop the engine, and look inside to see what the problem is. Yet your first reaction may be to put your foot on the accelerator, full speed ahead.

Know When to Hit the Pause Button

Since you can’t rely on clear, rational thinking when you’re in the midst of an intense, automatic reaction, simply notice what the signs are trying to tell you: it could be an unmet need of yours that is shouting for attention, or pain from your past that is being restimulated. In both cases, push the pause button before you react, and take a Time In.

Know When to Ask for Help

When pain from your past comes up frequently, take action outside the family as soon as possible. Healing pain from the past takes time and can best be facilitated by good friends, counselors, or therapists. If you are willing to make the journey, it can be an exciting time of reconnection with yourself that will allow you to bring more clarity, understanding, and harmony to family interactions.

Meet Your Need for Support and Inspiration

We hope you will find many ways to keep your energy tanks full, beginning with making sure you get rest, regular meals, and recreation. We hope you will also get in the habit of taking short, daily inspiration breaks to remind you of your intentions for parenting; you can read each of our texts or reflect on a quotation. We expect that, as you develop greater awareness of your needs, you will begin to notice them more often and sooner and take care of them more reliably and effectively. You can be that vital, alive person you want to be, for your own well-being and that of your children.

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