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by Alana Gregg, MS

The past few months have been a test of parenting, haven’t they? There has been no shortage of stress in these unprecedented times. And the stressors continue to pile up. How in the world do we help our kids deal with their emotions when we are struggling to deal with our own? This is the job of parenting. It is a high calling for a reason because it requires putting another human being’s needs before our own every day. In the moments when I would rather go back to bed and pull the covers over my head, I have to choose to care for and love my kids because that’s my job.

Here are 9 things to keep in mind during those stressful parenting moments:

  1. Calm yourself down first. This is the hardest thing in the world to do. When your kid is losing their mind and you can’t figure out why, it can be very frustrating. You feel the anger start to rise inside of you. In those moments, it’s important to find a way to calm yourself down first. You will only add to the intensity of the moment if you allow yourself to become as emotional as they are.
  2. Meet their basic needs. We all know that we don’t function well when we are hungry or tired. Why would we expect our kids to be any different? When we try to reason with our kids in those moments, it doesn’t work. Maybe they need a snack or a drink. Maybe they need to lay down and rest their eyes for a few minutes. Maybe they need to do ten jumping jacks. It’s only when our basic needs are met that we can learn and deal with stress well.
  3. Connect with them. Stop whatever you are doing and hug them! Remind them that you are here and that you will get through this together. We assume that they know that we are here for them. But the truth is, they need to hear it. They also need to know that it is ok to feel what they are feeling and that sometimes you feel those things too.
  4. Give them focused attention. Even if it’s just for a few minutes, they need this quality time. This is hard because we are already all in the same house right now all day long, so we assume we have done this. But being physically together is not the same as intentional time of connecting. If the only time your child gets attention is when they are misbehaving, then they will continue to act out to get your attention. This should also never be something that is taken away in moments of discipline. Time and affection are not bargaining chips. They are necessities.
  5. Keep their emotional tanks full. We can’t just hug our kids when they are upset. We need to make sure they are getting lots of physical touch and eye contact throughout the day. Point out when you see them doing something well or being kind. Look at them when they talk to you. Try to not zone out when they tell you about the cool world they made on Minecraft (this may or may not be a personal example). If your child has been clingy or needy, it may be that their emotional tank is low and it needs to be filled. When they are secure in knowing you love them, they will be able to deal with stress better throughout the day.
  6. Know your kid. Some kids are more sensitive to stress than others. Some kids have longer attention spans and can sit for longer periods of time. Some kids show their emotions on the outside and some hold them in. Understanding how your kid is wired will help you determine what they need in those stressful moments. What works for one kid may not work for another.
  7. Know yourself. Is your child like you or the opposite? Maybe they are way more emotional than you, so it’s difficult to understand why they are responding that way. Or maybe they get their emotional side from you, so you feed off of each other’s anxiety. This will impact the way you manage their emotions. Think about what their emotions bring up in you. They aren’t able to identify those feelings and put words to them yet. We need to understand our own emotions so we can teach them.
  8. Apologize. Many people believe that if they apologize to their child then they will seem weak or lose authority over them. This is not true. When we apologize to our children for being unkind or for yelling at them, we are modeling good behavior and how to admit when we are wrong. By showing them we are not perfect, it shows them they don’t need to pretend to be either.
  9. Ask God for help. The reason parenting seems like it requires more than we have to give is because it was meant to make us depend on God for the strength and love that we don’t possess without Him. Parenting also teaches us a lot about how God relates to us. We are quick to get angry as parents, but he is patient with us and full of lovingkindess no matter how many times we mess up.

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Parenting is hard. You will not do it perfectly. But most parenting is just showing up and being willing to listen and love. If your family is going through a difficult season, our team of trained counselors at Lime Tree Counseling offer marriage and family counseling to help get your family back on track. We want to help you shift your home from feeling chaotic and stressful to safe and enjoyable. Located in Ambler, PA, we also offer online counseling to make help more accessible and convenient. Call today to schedule an appointment or to set up a free 15 minute phone consultation.