Can Parents Really Relax?
It’s definitely more challenging than it sounds, but finding a way to relax just might be the key to being the parent you want to be!
Parenting is About Big Emotions
As parents, we’ve all had moments where we’ve reacted out of emotion. As a parent education facilitator, I have been privileged to hear many parents discuss interactions with their children they wished they had approached differently.
For some of us, common emotions such as shame, frustration and anger, collude with our exhaustion, juggling of responsibilities, and worries to occasionally and momentarily dispossess us of our sight of the big picture and the ideals by which we wish to parent.
When there is challenging behaviour in the home, or challenging situations in our lives at large, the ability to respond mindfully rather than reacting emotionally can sometimes be elusive.
This, however, is the goal for many parents. To increase the instances where we are able to respond to our children in a way that is aligned with how we would like to parent. And decrease the instances where we end up feeling crummy about choices and reactions afterwards.
Bounce Back and Thrive!
The Parent Education Facilitation Team at Muskoka Family Focus is currently administering a program called Bounce Back & Thrive that focusses on building resiliency skills in parents, guardians, and children. One of the key skills that we work in Bounce Bank and Thrive is:
The 3 R’s: Relax – Re Think – Respond
These skills are particularly useful in the development of the ability to mindfully respond. Relaxing can lead to an extra second to think, or the clarity to see the bigger picture. And that re-framing often welcomes a thought-out-response rather than an immediate reaction.
I’d like to focus, in this post, on the first R – Relax.
Relaxing can help us calm down enough so we can be in charge of our emotions and respond to our children with support and guidance, and to challenging situations with resiliency.
There are many ways for adults to bring more calmness into their lives. There are long term strategies, and shorter, more “in the moment” tips and tools.
This fall has been a roller coaster in my life. Our youngest daughter starting Kindergarten this year, and our oldest returning to full-time in-person learning has brought runny noses, coughs, stomach viruses, and a constant barrage of missed days of school, need for alternate childcare, missed days of work, and constant problem solving.
I’ve had to prioritise managing my stress inventory. And with the time I have to myself, focus on activities that bring calmness and relaxation into my life. So that I can maintain that same calmness and relaxed attitude in the face of parenting flash points.
Here are some of the tools I have considered.
I’ve recently picked up a hobby of painting rocks. I find the repeating of patterns in this particular arts practice has assisted me in really getting away for a moment and giving my brain a break. A few household items, and some water-based paint and I’m off!
My hope is that investing in my emotional and mental health in a fairly consistent way can ease the building stress.
There are art workshops and classes available all over Muskoka. Libraries and local businesses like Let the Cat Go in Bracebridge and More than Just Art in Huntsville offer art making experiences and educational workshops in dozens of different styles.
Many find respite from stress in Exercise. Self-exertion or focus on a specific and measurable goal can offer a healthy escape from life’s to-do list. And a consistent and modest exercise routine is a great way to invest in your mental along with your physical health.
Whether through personal practice at one of Muskoka’s many fitness centres, or through yoga, climbing, running, biking, or walking, exercise is a great way to relieve stress and increase the probability of a productive response in your next challenging parenting moment.
According to HelpGuide.org: “Play is fun and can trigger the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.”
I have always found that investing in play with my daughters has helped with perspective and has brought moments of joy into my day. When it’s Dad’s turn to the be the Princess, or the Dragon, or the Dragon-Princess, full investment into the character is in order.
Silliness and creativity usher me into a more playful and relaxed mood.
Deep breathing can help promote your overall stress management in general and can decrease the likelihood of an emotional reaction in any given moment as well.
Like art making, exercise, and play, a breathing practice can contribute to balance, mental and emotional health and awareness of our actions and reactions in everyday life.
You can even practice breathing exercises with children and other family members.
Something we try to share with parents is that when we react our emotions take charge, and when we respond, we are in charge of our emotions.
Insert the Pause
Relaxation in the methods listed above, or any other form of attracting balance are great ways to keep those emotions at bay, whether in that very moment, or in the days and weeks prior.
When I prioritize my mental and emotion wellness I feel the best version of myself. I like to think that I’m giving myself the best chance to be the best parent that I can be, and foster right relations with my daughters.
Relaxing, seeking balance and trying to practice more patience is a constant and imperfect process. But the investment seems worthy to me if I can develop the tools that allow me the presence to pause in the heat of the moment.
When I can pause, the beautiful thoughts creep in. Grace for others is allowed to flow into the situation and I am better prepared to honour and care for the relationships that I hold most dear.