Every parent knows the feeling. Your teen is surly and refuses to do homework…. your two year old is throwing toys and spitting… the laundry needs done and the house is a wreck and everyone is stressed out!
You know… THOSE days.
It’s always hardest to parent when you see your child or teen starting to spin out of control. Inside it is so easy to think about how you are tired and had hoped to come home to an easy evening or spend a nice day home with the family. And then chaos hits.
Time to take a break and think about stressbusters now, before the surly teen is cursing and the two year old breaks the remote, again. Stress in the family means parents must pull back, calm down, and take a breath. If you are losing it and your kids are losing it then everyone needs to find soothing and relaxing activities. High stress means time to rest, to relax, to let you and your children and teens unwind.
Here are some great ideas:
Get OUTSIDE. Even if it is raining, grab umbrellas, pull on boots, layer up on many sweatshirts, and head outside. Fresh air and oxygen help everyone unwind.
STICK to YOUR SCHEDULE. If kids eat breakfast at 8:00, get everyone mixing and stirring so food is on-time. If 10:00 is art time, plan some soothing goop activities. If 6:30 is homework time, plan on sitting together with your child or teen and calmly doing the work. Schedules help everyone feel safe, calm, predictable.
SENSORY ACTIVITIES. This is how you soothe yourself (do you like a bath? a cup of coffee? chewing gum? Your favorite music? You use sensory activities, too!) Make goop for little ones or get teens punching out pizza dough. Put on music that everyone likes, or go for some blessed silence. If you have multiple kids with multiple needs, make sure everyone (INCLUDING YOU) gets a little of what you each need. And push for bathtime early – for you, your teen, yourself. Water is a great soother. Check out our homemade recipes on this page!
CALM Television time. Ok, usually when we work with families we turn off television sets all the time. But when stress is high, put on that favorite episode of Barney or Star Trek and relax. Watch something you have seen a million times, and know every song or line of dialogue. Repetition is relaxing. Pop popcorn. Turn the lights down. Who doesn’t unwind when Captain Picard takes on the Borg one more time?
BREATHE. With little ones it is easy to bundle them into our laps and read books. With teens try to slow your breathing down when they are stressed and notice how much this is catching! If your teen allows it, try some backrubs. Stand next to your teen, shoulder to shoulder, which is a subtle reminder that you are a team.
CALL for HELP! When kids lose it and you are not coping, it can be hard to work out a solution. Then you need help! Don’t wait until windows are breaking or you are ready to cry yourself to sleep! Call friends, family, therapists, religious leaders… Kids with special needs are a parenting challenge, whether the special need is related to giftedness, different abilities, or developmental delays. Asking for help is what makes the difference for your child – and it will help the whole family, as well.
And finally, REMEMBER:
Ideally, we all want to become independent self-soothers, and manage and calm ourselves. But really isn’t family ultimately about the fact that we need one another? I lose it when appliances break and I need support. Our teens lose it from overwhelming school days, and they need us – STILL – for support. Our little ones can’t soothe themselves, but as we help them they learn how.
Stressful times actually define what families are. Anyone can do family and parenting when life is easy. When it is hard, that is when parents matter most. So remember when the sink plugs up and your teen is refusing to take out the trash and your five year old threw books out the window….
This is the time that makes you a family.