This parent is running late and needs to get himself and his kids out the door, when suddenly the 4-year-old daughter complains of a stomachache and loses her breakfast all over the doorway. What’s a parent to do?
Another parent is ready to finally call it a day and get some much-needed sleep and her 10-year-old son announces that he has a science project due the next day and hasn’t started. What’s a parent to do?
And this parent has finally worked out a schedule for co-parenting with her child’s father and then finds out that he has been asked to go out of town for his job on the times that he was going to take them, leaving the child without any day care. What’s a parent to do?
There are endless scenarios that throw parents into a fit of panic for things that occur that weren’t planned for.
How many kids know when their parents are worried about them? Even if the worry seems to be out of sight and sound of the kids, they still sense it and can be affected as much by the parent’s worry as they are by the situation causing the worry. What’s a parent to do if they don’t worry?
When overwhelm and confusion arise, a parent can take action that will bring relief, and even resolution to the so-called “problems” at hand.
First, acknowledge what is.
Acknowledge what you are sensing, what you are reacting to, and what the situation truly is. As you acknowledge, BREATHE. When you focus on your breath, you bring oxygen and attention to what is, you become present, you avoid going into over-reaction mode that will only make matters worse.
Next, ask some questions, explore what is needed or possible?
After you have acknowledged what is, you can then ask some questions-What do I need here? What does my child need? What will make this work out? What other resources do I have? What else do I know about this? Who can assist me? What else is possible that I haven’t thought of?
As you ask these questions, you will calm down, you will be setting your awareness to what you do know, what the options are and what you can now choose and how you will be as you make your choice.
Make a choice and keep asking and choosing.
Let’s look at the examples above.
Susie just threw up, (Breathe) Acknowledge what is - I am feeling rushed, (Breathe) I have a meeting I can’t miss (Breathe) Susie is crying (Breathe) This just takes seconds to calm yourself so you can then explore and ask questions which will then give you a choice to make. Now ask, what is needed here? What is my priority? Who do I need to contact? Your calmness will assist Susie in feeling less stress too. Maybe it was even your stress of having to get out of the house that caused her stomach to overturn. You calmly check in with Susie, have her breathe, assess the situation, is she ill and does she need care or is she now able to go to preschool? Who do you need to call- a back up for care, your office to let them know you won’t be in the office? You might even ask- How does this turn out better than I could have imagined. You know from past experiences that things like this work out. When you release your emotions of overwhelm and frenzy, it can work out even better. Now make your choice of how to proceed. When you move into action, things then start to flow. It is when we stay paralyzed about something, that things get worse. While you are cleaning up the mess, you most likely will begin to receive some possible solutions.
Grant has just announced that he has a science project due tomorrow and doesn’t know what to do. Acknowledge that it is late, you are tired, Grant has put off telling you about his science project, this is the third time he has forgotten to plan for homework, and you are feeling frustrated and angry. Breathe and ask some questions- What would contribute to your well-being? What would contribute to Grant and his forgetting? Are you willing to let Grant learn from this experience? If not, what is that about for you? Ask Grant questions- What do you plan to do about that? What will you do next time so that you aren’t doing your science project at such a late hour? Choose what will work for you and state what doesn’t work for you. See this as an opportunity for Grant to experience life based on his choices.
Andy’s dad has just let you know that he is going out of town tomorrow and can’t cover his day of watching Andy. Take a breath and acknowledge what you know about this – Andy won’t have anyone to care for him tomorrow. His father doesn’t have a back up plan. You are scheduled to work. Keep breathing and ask some questions – What is most important in this situation? Who can assist you? What else is possible? Is this for you to figure out or is it for Andy’s father? Make a choice based on what comes into your awareness while asking questions. As you practice this process, your awareness will grow, and you will have a better sense of what is needed. This is the place where you do get to choose, and while we often want our choices to turn out just as we plan, they sometimes don’t. What each choice does give is more awareness about our choosing.
Each situation is going to have many altering factors that are unique to you and your family. Developing your skill to stop and acknowledge what is, ask key empowering questions and make choices will build your awareness of what you do know, so that when those “What’s a Parent to Do?” moments happen you will be empowered and you will empower your kids through modeling for them these same key elements.
You can learn more about using these tools in our online course- ABCs for Empowering Kids.
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