SAFE: A Self-Regulation tool for Parents
As a parent, regardless of how old your child is, you will eventually find yourself overwhelmed, dysregulated, and on the verge of a meltdown. That time may come
hours, days, or weeks after your child is born...but it will come. Most likely it will happen again and again and again. Your newborn won't stop crying. Your toddler will throw a tantrum at the exact moment you need to leave for work. Your teen will miss curfew...again! In these moments, our kids are being kids. They are expressing a need, testing limits, and trying out different skills that become the foundation of who they will be. It is during these times that we, as the parents, must be prepared to be the adult and RESPOND instead of REACT to provide them with a sense safety and consistency.
So, how do you do this? How can your find inner peace, when you are surrounded by chaos or teetering on the emotional edge?
First, it is important to be honest with yourself about how you're feeling. You need to STATE the emotion you are experiencing. Are you angry that your changing your child after ANOTHER blow-out and your partner is nowhere to be found? Maybe you feel frustrated because your child has been crying for 10 minutes and nothing you're doing is calming them down. Or you might be feeling sad because you were hoping to meet up with a friend.
Once you've identified the feeling or emotion, ACCEPT it. There is nothing wrong with what you are experiencing. More often than not, it is a common response to what is happening and there is ALWAYS a reason. So embrace the emotion instead of trying to deny it or push it away. You might even say it out loud. The sooner you can look at the feeling from an objective place, instead of a place of judgement or guilt, the sooner you can address it.
Now that you've stated and accepted the emotion, you can take steps to move through it and take action. Most often this starts with supporting our nervous system to regulate by FINDING a sensory calming tool that works for us. It may also look like a grounding activity or mantra. Something to help bring you from a place of stress to a place of calm.
If you have been triggered or knocked out of a place of peace in response to your child's actions or behavior, the final step will be to ENGAGE with your child intentionally. Once you've gone through the first three steps and have found yourself in a more regulated state (note: I did not say in a happy place) you can choose to move forward with your child either to help them regulate, reengage in the activity, or discuss possible solutions to the problem at hand. There is no timeline for this process. Move at a pace that works for you and your child. If you've taken the time to regulate yourself, then reconnection with them should feel possible. If it still feels overwhelming, you may need to spend more time meeting your sensory needs or take a step back and get real about your emotions.
Learning to self-regulate in the tough parenting moments allows us as parents to remain consistent for our kids and provide them with a sense of safety regardless of what is going on around them. And as a bonus: when we practice self-regulation, we can engage in co-regulation with them, and eventually give them the model for their own self-regulation as they grow older. It is a win-win-win!
All of this is easier said than done. Self-regulation takes self-awareness, self-forgiveness, and intentional practice. Want to learn more about how to bring more inner peace into your parenting? Check out our course Keeping YOUR Calm in the Chaos on our website and follow us on Instagram.