Kidlist welcomes Susan Stutzman, mother to three little ones and owner of Kid Matters Counseling in Hinsdale as a guest contributor to give us tips on how to manage stressful situations we are facing at home. We can all use a little help during this trying time and are so grateful for her professional advice!
This is a chaotic time in the lives of parents and kids everywhere. Being thrust into a “new normal” without notice can bring out the best as well as the worst in us all.
It’s understandable to be dealing with anxiety or big feelings during this sudden change in environment and schedule. It can be overwhelming to know how to “hold it together” with no end in sight, but there are some things that can help calm the chaos.
As a mom of three and the owner of Kid Matters Counseling, I have the privilege of helping kids and parents on a daily basis (not just in a pandemic!) find ways to cope in the midst of big changes and transitions. Below are my personal top 5 “go to’s” that help me cope in changes and transitions especially when I’m about to lose my sh*t or have already lost it and need a reset.
5 Ways to Cope When You’re Losing It
Take an adult “time out” or “alone time”
I find that for me, taking time to center myself in my faith through prayer, meditation and gratitude helps me re-focus my attention on what I believe and the truth I hold dear.
This is a quick yet impactful exercise that can be used to help center and regulate your body. Resetting breaths are aimed at helping to restore the oxygen/carbon dioxide ratio in your bloodstream as well as balance the autonomic nervous system function. It’s like a jolt to your system that provides mental clarity. For complete instructions, watch the video below or go here.
Take my feelings on a walk
When unpleasant, unexpected or confusing feelings arise I have found it helpful to take my feelings on a walk. If I give my feelings space outside and purposefully “be with” them it helps. Neuroscientific research says that in order to tame a thought it first needs to be named. So, I start by “pulling out of my mind” what I am feeling, naming it, placing it in my hand and recognizing it as a part of me that needs or wants something. Then I ask that part what it might feel it needs and I listen. Then, I speak what I know is true about the feeling and finally wish it well before letting it go. Here’s an example for the feeling Mad:
“Hello Mad part of me. I wonder what you need from me today. (maybe help or to be seen by my partner or maybe a break from social distancing) Thank you Mad for working so hard to keep me safe when I’m sad, lonely and confused.
My body feels like it’s ready to scream because I need people for survival and I’m exhausted from sheltering in place. I appreciate you Mad feeling for trying to protect me by energizing my angry parts and reminding me I am alive. I am thankful for you but I am safe and this too shall pass so I choose to gratefully give you permission to rest.”
Name the feeling as many times as you need to. Practice gratitude for the feeling (and yourself) on a physical walk (or visual if there is no other option). And soon you will find the feeling changing and taming.
Go into the bathroom and cry
It’s ok to cry. It’s ok not to be ok. It’s ok to lose it and need help. Parenting under pressure is really hard. The coronavirus quarantine is REALLY HARD. Allow yourself to feel the weight of your parenting reality when you need to. But, find someone or something to hold onto in your sadness and once the tears have passed remember, like all things, this pandemic too shall pass.
Lean in and make a meaningful connection
Instead of trying to hold unrealistic expectations together during this time allow yourself some space to lean into the crazy a bit. Making meaningful connections with your family can really increase your mental stamina and help relieve harmful levels of stress.
Be silly together, break out in dance with your kids, jump on a trampoline holding a family member’s hand, try asking for a hug or snuggle from your partner. Sing karaoke, tell your kids a silly story or take them on an imaginary trip using visual imagery. LEAN IN!
For even more ideas on ways to lean in and connect with your kids, I’ve put together a simple and free 5 day connection challenge for parents that help you make a meaningful connection with your child.
Self care is so important as a parent. And now, more than ever, you need to care for yourself in order to best sustain the kiddos in your care. Think of your self care as important as the flight attendant directions “if you are traveling with a minor, put the oxygen mask on yourself first before you put theirs on.” Or, in other words, you can’t help your children stay sane if you’ve lost your sh*t so, it is imperative to take time for yourself and practice self care!
If you need more support as a parent and it would be helpful to talk with someone further about parenting ideas or for more helpful tips to help you cope with all types of feelings please reach out.
Resource yourself with all the supports that you can! The counselors at Kid Matters Counseling are available to help both kiddos and parents. Don’t parent alone!
A lot of kids who struggle with anxiety and anger get stuck and many parents struggle with how to help their children.
Kid Matters Counseling creates custom plans to help kids get unstuck and equip parents to better understand their children and make lasting connections with them.