It’s Sunday morning and the kids are fighting, the toddler is having a tantrum over a cookie, your oldest is complaining about the shirt you want him to wear, and you are trying to get everyone out the door on time for church. You can feel the stress start to rise, and you yell. You are becoming dis-regulated in the midst of the chaos. How do you keep your cool to parent effectively?
It is important to regulate and control our own emotions. Our children have big emotions that are challenging to parent. They are intuitive and react to our emotions. When we are stressed, our kids can sense the tension and often become tense themselves. The tension can create more issues with bad behaviors and big attitudes. The more calm a parent can stay, the more effective the parenting can be. We are modeling behavior and how to handle emotions to our children. Our children rely on us to be a source of emotional stability especially when they are upset or stressed.
There are several ways parents can regulate their own emotions.
First of all, as parents we need to become more aware of our own emotions. When you find yourself inclined to stomping, slamming, or shouting, identify where in your body you are sensing change. Is our heart rate going up, are we sweaty, does our stomach hurt? Then, name and attach what feeling we're experiencing. Are we feeling stressed, anxious, rushed, or fearful? Identify the “why” to the feeling. Are we stressed because we are worried about being late? Because our children’s behaviors aren’t changing? because we're growing embarrassed?
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23
The next thing that you can do is to try ways to bring the emotions back down to your baseline or your calm state. Take a moment. Do some breathing as you count to 10. Deep breathing lowers your heart rate back to normal and will help you get your feelings under control. It is important to take a break and step away from the chaos when needed. We can count or use meditation to help become centered again. It is just as important to maintain control over one’s own emotions as it is to direct the child’s behavior.
Ask for help from the Holy Spirit. The last thing we may want to do when we are stressed by our kids is pray. Sometimes, we put the Holy Spirit on the shelf for major life crises and forget that He is always available and interested to help with our daily lives. Ask God for help and He will deliver what you need. “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” John 14:26.
Processing stressful moments afterward will help parents and kids understand their own emotions and the emotions of others more fully. Admit mistakes and offer apologies if needed. This will model to kids how to take responsibility for emotions. Brainstorm ways with your kids and spouse to change a situation to help everyone stay more calm.
Some other ways to regulate our own emotions are putting into habit regular self care. Finding ways to manage and reduce stress are essential. Set aside time each week to take breaks from the business of the routine. Having enjoyable hobbies and non work related tasks are necessary for every parent. Proper rest, eating habits, and exercise also positively impact parents’ emotions. Parents may find it helpful to develop a positive support system and engaging in social situations with other adults. Parents may also benefit from mental health counseling and an annual check up with their primary physician and other necessary specialists.
Maintaining control of our emotions as parents can be difficult but is also a necessary part of parenting. Regular practice of regulating emotions will make for a more peaceful environment and home.
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra
Rev. Deb Koster