Learning to be a more Peaceful Parent led me on a journey of becoming a more peaceful person. For me these two are inextricably linked. I never really quite understood how my inner happiness and calm or lack thereof could so greatly affect my children. I mean, I knew if I was in a bad mood I was not a great parent. But what I didn’t really understand until later was that if I kept myself “resourced” then I was an entirely different parent compared to when I was just getting by.
There are many things that have helped me along the way to gain perspective on my own inner being. Below I've listed some of the ones that have made a big difference in how I parent my own kids. I not only do these things for self-preservation, but in fact, I do them for my children's benefit as well. When I am whole, they can have a better experience in this world and in our household.
1. Get lots of rest! I mean lots! I use to see every concert I could possibly manage, go to dinner multiple times a week and go out on the weekends. This made me cranky and irritable, even when I was faking it. Now I go to bed at 10 most nights at the latest and try to go to bed at 9 at least one day a week.
2. Meditate. Lots of people love to meditate even if it is just for a minute. There is an abundance of research out there which points out how meditation can reduce anxiety. Enough said. If you can do it just for a few minutes then try. Here are a few good ones to try:
3. Exercise. We all know the long lasting and short term effects of exercise for both physical and mental health. Try to exercise a few days a week, even if it is a walk in your neighborhood.
4. Be alone. Most of us are at work with the kids, our significant others or with other people. It’s great to spend some time alone to just be with yourself and be quiet.
5. Smile at people. When you are walking around, say "hello" and look others in the eye. Surprisingly, it keeps us in a good mood when we smile and see others smile back.
6. Go slow. When I take life at a slower pace and try not to adhere to the clock so much, I feel better and so do my kids. Nobody likes to be rushed including us. So what’s the worse thing that can happen if you don’t get there on time? Will the soccer coach kill you? Is the first grade teacher going to give you an F?
7. Drink lots of water and eat good food. We always feel better when we are mindful of what we put in our bodies. Of course we drink tequila and eat ice cream but we make sure we are well fed and nourished before we parent our kids. Cranky hungry moms and dads are no good for anyone.
8. Find a friend or a listening partner to download your upsets, those with your kids and those outside of parenting. If we have somewhere to vent, then we are less likely to take it out on our kids. Make sure it is a friend who won’t try to fix your problems or give you advice but rather is a safe haven to have big feelings and meltdowns.
9. Go out with your friends or partner and be an adult. We need time away from little ones to remember what the other part of our life is all about. Do we need to stay out until 2 am at the clubs? I think not, or at least not every night. Make time for yourself. Being an adult is important too!
10. Just breathe. Take deep cleansing breaths while you parent, before you pick up the kids from school, in the morning when you are getting ready and all day long. Deep breaths help on so many levels. Your nervous system will thank you!
I know this doesn’t seem like help with parenting, but I think being calm is the biggest challenge when you are taking care of kids. If we can remain centered by taking care of ourselves first then we have taken a large step in the right direction. It’s like what they say on the airplane, “In the event of a loss of cabin pressure, put on your own oxygen mask before you help your children with theirs”. It makes sense…it’s difficult to help those around you if you are on empty.