September 3, 2019
Most of us are focused on everything that our children are doing. Are they hanging around with the right friends?, are they studying?, are they sleeping enough?, are they exercising enough?, are they practicing ways to stay calm and manage their emotions?, are they eating what they are supposed to eat?…the list goes on and on…it’s never-ending really!
So as a fellow parent, I thought I would ask you to stop, take a step back and ask yourself if you are doing these things for yourself too. Are you hanging around with the right people (do they love you and motivate you)? Are you still hungry to learn and continuing to better yourself and feed your curiosity? Are you getting enough sleep and exercising to take care of your body? Are you taking care of your mind to help it stay calm and peaceful? Are you eating healthy foods that energizes you and helps you to feel good?
The point is that most parents (me included) are not prioritizing these things for themselves and then get frustrated when their kids aren’t either. The part that we fail to understand as parents is that our words are empty if we are sad, unsure or feel bad about ourselves. The energy you bring into your home is more important than anything you say to your kids.
Do you nurture good friendships and model the importance of taking care of friends when they need you? Are you showing your children by example the importance of giving in a take-all-the-time world? Children learn more about relationships and friendships from their families than anywhere else. This includes parents, grandparents, siblings, cousins and family friends. What happens when you disagree with someone? Do you confront them and try to explain your feelings or do you avoid or reject? Well guess what, your children are watching and they are learning.
Do you make nutrition, exercise and sleep a priority in your life or are you driving through fast food restaurants and laying on the couch staring at your phone. Are you going to bed at a decent time or saying you’re tired all the time and yet you stay up late and look for pills or something else to help you fall asleep. Your children are watching and learning.
Are you able to stay calm in difficult situations or do you let your emotions get the best of you? This is often one of the most difficult. As parents when our kids are sad or angry, we immediately go into “Mama Bear” mode. The is often when we are confrontational, do not have all of the information and act irrationally. I encourage you to learn to recognize this feeling and stop for a second before you react. I would guess nine times out of ten the next day you would not react the same way; so sleep on it. Yelling, screaming and “protecting your child” without all of the information is dangerous territory. We are teaching our children that they are never wrong. Perhaps it was a misunderstanding or maybe it’s not as big of a deal as your child is making it out to be. Encourage your child to explain in detail what they feel and what exactly happened.
Ask questions that encourage empathy and “putting themselves in someone else’s shoes”. Reflecting on a situation is more productive than a knee jerk reaction. It’s kind of like an adult temper tantrum. When we learn to manage our emotions, we can help our children manage theirs.
It is ironic isn’t it? If we spend more time working on showing up for ourselves the way we know is best, our children will learn that with self care, strength and confidence they too can become their best self.
Enjoy your week!
Elizabeth Vainder, M.D.